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May 7, 2021

More than 400,000 COVID cases on second consecutive day in India

 
May 7, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As India's devastating COVID-19 crisis mounted last month, countries around the world began sending emergency medical supplies to help stem the surge.

On Thursday, India reported 3,920 more deaths from coronavirus and 414,433 new infections. The new death toll is 234,071.

Planeloads of ventilators, medicines and oxygen equipment began pouring into India, from countries including the UK and the US, at the start of last week. By Sunday, some 300 tonnes of supplies on 25 flights had arrived at Delhi International Airport alone. But - as cases continue to reach record levels across the country - concerns are mounting about delays in supplying the aid to those most in need, international media reported. For several days, much of the cargo sat in airport hangars as hospitals called for more support. The supplies did not begin being distributed until as late as Monday evening - more than a week after the first batch of emergency assistance arrived, state officials have told local media.

The Indian government has strongly denied there is a delay, issuing a statement on Tuesday evening saying it had introduced a "streamlined and systematic mechanism" for distributing the supplies. The health ministry said in the statement it was "working 24x7 to fast track and clear the goods".

But on the ground, officials in some of India's worst-hit states said that they had still not received any supplies. Kerala's chief minister Prinarayi Vijayan called on India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "urgently" send Kerala some of the country's much-needed oxygen imports. He asked that the equipment "be allotted to Kerala on a priority basis, considering the fact that Kerala has one of the highest active caseloads in the country", in an open letter to Modi on Wednesday.

Some healthcare officials claim there has been little to no communication from the central government on how or when they would receive supplies. "There's still no information about where it is being distributed," said Dr Harsh Mahajan, the president of the Healthcare Federation of India, which represents some of the country's biggest private hospitals. "It seems people don't know - I've tried two or three places and been unable to find out," he added. "It's still not clear."

Some non-governmental groups involved in responding to the crisis also say they are frustrated by an apparent lack of information.

"I don't think anybody has any clarity on where aid is going," Pankaj Anand, Oxfam India's director of programme and advocacy, said. "There is no tracker on any website giving you an answer."

On Friday, the issue was raised at a US state department briefing, when a reporter demanded "accountability for the US taxpayers' money" being sent to India, and asked if the US government was tracking the aid's whereabouts.

"Rest assured that the United States is committed to making sure that our partners in India are taken care of in this crisis," the state department's spokesperson said in response.