The UK has sent another 1,000 ventilators to India to help tackle the rise in coronavirus infections in its struggling healthcare system, which is killing thousands of people every day.
Boris Johnson promised “the UK will always be there for India” as he pledged fresh assistance, including advice from NHS staff and the government’s chief medical and science advisers, Professor Chris White and Sir Patrick Valence.
The prime minister made the promise before a meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday, arranging for a visit to New Delhi, which was abruptly canceled. They will discuss deeper cooperation between the UK and India, including a new 10-year economic partnership that is seen as a prelude to a free trade agreement.
Of the 200 aircraft shipped last week from the UK’s oversupply of 1,000, there are more than 200, including about 500 oxygen concentrations.
Whitey and Valence have spoken to their Indian counterparts to share the skills they gained during Britain’s fight against the disease.
India recorded more than 390,000 new infections and 3,689 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to more than 215,500.
In a statement, Johnson said: “The horrific images we have seen in India in recent weeks are the most powerful because of the close and lasting ties between the UK and the people of India.
“I am deeply moved by the support that the British people have provided to the Indian people and I am pleased that the British government has been able to play its part in providing life-saving assistance,” he said.
“The UK will always be there for India in times of need.”
NHS England is forming a Clinical Advisory Group to support India’s response by sharing information on outbreak management procedures.
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would “look very carefully” at any request for vaccines from India.
The cabinet minister will meet his Indian counterpart Subramaniam Jaishankar on Monday when he will have face-to-face meetings with G7 foreign ministers. India’s foreign ministry is pressuring G7 leaders to relax patent laws to allow more mass production of the vaccine, but the idea has been rejected in Western countries. Ironically, India has been the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, but has found it partly on its own due to its commitment to large-scale exports.
Robb said the government has no request from New Delhi to vaccinate.
“We will always consider any requests we receive,” he told the Andrew Marr Show.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandi said the government should aim to send to India “as soon as possible”, but should not stop the UK program from doing so.
“We have not yet defeated the virus in the UK and we need to keep pace with this vaccination program,” he told the BBC.
“It simply came to our notice then. I found out last night that a member of a close family in India was in the hospital with Kovid and I found family members here in the UK who are also very affected by Kovid.
The need to re-examine the UK’s 5-meter AstraZeneca food order has caused a stalemate in India and raised questions about whether the government could allow them to be used there.
Professor Peter Opensha, an immunologist who advises the government, said it would be a “very reasonable arrangement” to allow India to stop these jobs.
But he added: “It’s about striking a balance between what we have available to our population and through organized systems that can distribute evenly around the world.”
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