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Pakistan offers help to India: India crumbles before corona

Top Story

April 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Indian authorities scrambled Saturday to get oxygen tanks to hospitals where COVID-19 patients were suffocating amid the world’s worst coronavirus surge, as the government came under increasing criticism for what doctors said was its negligence in the face of a foreseeable public health disaster.

For the third day in a row, India set a global daily record of new infections. The 346,786 confirmed cases over the past day brought India’s total to more than 16.8 million, behind only the United States. Over a million cases have been recorded in India over the past three days. The Health Ministry reported another 2,624 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s COVID-19 fatalities to 191,436. Experts say even those figures are likely an undercount. Currently, the active cases are 2.6 million.

According to international media reports, the government ramped up its efforts to get medical oxygen to hospitals using special Oxygen Express trains, air force planes and trucks to transport tankers, and took measures to exempt critical oxygen supplies from customs taxes. But the crisis in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people was only deepening as overburdened hospitals shut admissions and ran out of beds and oxygen supplies.

“Every hospital is running out (of oxygen). We are running out,” Dr Sudhanshu Bankata, executive director of Batra Hospital, a leading hospital in the capital, told local media.

In a sign of the desperation unfolding over the shortages, a high court in Delhi warned Saturday it would “hang” anyone who tries to obstruct the delivery of emergency oxygen supplies, amid evidence that some local authorities were diverting tanks to hospitals in their areas. The court, which was hearing submissions by a group of hospitals over the oxygen shortages, termed the devastating rise in infections a “tsunami.”

At least 20 COVID-19 patients at the critical care unit of New Delhi’s Jaipur Golden Hospital died overnight as “oxygen pressure was low,” the international media reports said.

“Our supply was delayed by seven-eight hours on Friday night and the stock we received last night is only 40 percent of the required supply,” the hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr DK Baluja was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, 25 COVID-19 patients died at the capital’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital amid suggestions that low oxygen supplies were to blame.

India’s infection surge, blamed on a highly contagious variant, came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory over the coronavirus in January, telling the virtual gathering of the World Economic Forum that India’s success couldn’t be compared with anywhere else.

“In a country which is home to 18 percent of the world population, that country has saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively,” Modi said.

But health experts and critics say a downward trend in infections late last year lulled authorities into complacency, as they failed to plug the holes in the ailing health care system that had become evident during the first wave. They also blame politicians and government authorities for allowing super-spreader events, including religious festivals and election rallies, to take place as recently as this month.

On Saturday, Pakistan as a gesture of solidarity with the people of India in the wake of the current wave of COVID-19, offered to provide relief support to India including ventilators, Bi PAP, digital X-ray machines, PPEs and related items.

“The concerned authorities of Pakistan and India can work out modalities for quick delivery of the relief items. They can also explore possible ways of further cooperation to mitigate the challenges posed by the pandemic,” said the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed solidarity with the people of India as they battled a dangerous wave of COVID-19, and prayed for a speedy recovery of all those suffering from the pandemic in India and rest of the world.

The prime minister said in a tweet, “I want to express our solidarity with the people of India as they battle a dangerous wave of COVID-19. Our prayers for a speedy recovery go to all those who are suffering from the pandemic in our neighbourhood and the world.”

He emphasised that we must fight this global challenge confronting humanity together.

In another tweet, the prime minister thanked overseas Pakistanis for funds received through RoshanDigitialAccount had which crossed $1 billion.

“Alhamdulillah, funds received through#RoshanDigitalAccount. I would like to thank our overseas Pakistanis for their overwhelming response; also appreciate the efforts of SBP and banks for achieving this significant milestone in such a short period,” he said in the tweet.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “We express our support to the people of India in the wake of the current wave of COVID19 infections, that has hit our region hard. On behalf of the people of Pakistan, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the affected families in India.”

He said in tweets that humanitarian issues require responses beyond political consideration. “Pakistan continues to work with Saarc countries to foster cooperation to tackle the pandemic,” he said.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry expressed solidarity with the citizens of India in this difficult time.

He tweeted, “Our prayers are with the citizens of India in this difficult time. May Allah Almighty have mercy on us all and may this difficult time end soon. Amen.”