World reacts to India’s catastrophic COVID surge

Countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States have pledged to rapidly send medical aid to India as the country battles a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

A health worker carries a patient suffering from the coronavirus outside the casualty ward at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, in New Delhi, India [Adnan Abidi/REUTERS]

India is battling a catastrophic, record-breaking coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals and set crematoriums working at full capacity.

On Monday, for the fifth straight day, the country set a global daily record of new coronavirus infections, as new variants of the virus continue to spread.

Life-saving oxygen is in short supply and families are being left on their own to ferry people sick with COVID-19 from hospital to hospital in search of treatment.

India has ordered its armed forces to help tackle surging infections as countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid.

India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has an official tally of 17.31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, health ministry data showed, although health experts say the figures probably run higher.

Here’s how the world has reacted:

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief voiced alarm Monday, saying the organisation was rushing to help address the crisis.

“The situation in India is beyond heartbreaking,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

“WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies.”

Tedros said the UN health agency was among other things sending “thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals and laboratory supplies”.

The WHO also said it had transferred more than 2,600 of its experts from various programmes, including polio and tuberculosis, to work with Indian health authorities to help respond to the pandemic.

A general view is shown of the mass cremation of those who died from the coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi, India [Adnan Abidi/REUTERS]

United Kingdom

The first of nine airline container-loads of supplies from the UK, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, was set to arrive in India early Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, pledging the UK would do “all it can” to help.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK would use military planes or charter other aircraft in order to get the supplies to India to help the country “in their time of need”.

The assistance package includes 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators from surplus UK stocks.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would provide all the support it can because the two countries were “close friends and increasingly important partners”.

“Also, we need this kind of international cooperation if we’re going to get through this pandemic. We’re not gonna be safe until we are all safe,” he added.

United States

On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the US would send raw materials for Covishield, Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, as well as medical equipment and protective gear.

“The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” a White House statement said.

However, it did not mention whether it would send any of the 30 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses it currently holds in surplus.

The Biden administration’s top medical adviser on Sunday said the US would review how to help India’s vaccine supply.

Dr Anthony Fauci told ABC that the US would consider ways to help, such as by sending vaccine doses to India or helping the country “to essentially make vaccines themselves”.

Biden promised emergency coronavirus-related assistance to India in a telephone call Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two countries said.

Biden “pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India” and said the US “is providing a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics”, the White House said.

European Commission

On Sunday, the European Commission activated its EU Civil Protection Mechanism and said it was seeking to send oxygen and medicine to India after receiving a request from Delhi.

“The EU is pooling resources to respond rapidly to India’s request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

“We stand in full solidarity with the Indian people!”

On Monday an EU official confirmed India had asked for medical oxygen and the antiviral drug Remdesivir and said the aid could be made available soon.


Ireland’s Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said in a tweet on Monday the country would donate 700 oxygen concentrators to India with EU support.


Germany’s health ministry said in a press conference Monday that it was sending to India ventilators, monoclonal antibodies, the drug Remdesivir, as well as surgical and N95-protective masks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said on Sunday that Germany was “urgently preparing a mission of support”.

India’s ministry of defence said on Friday it was importing 23 mobile oxygen generation plants and containers from Germany, which were to be airlifted and arrive in India within a week.


France will supply India with “substantial medical aid”, the Elysee presidential palace said Monday.

The shipments to India will include oxygen generators, respirators and cryogenic containers and will start next weekend.


Pakistan offered to send medical equipment and supplies after Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted prayers on Saturday for a “speedy recovery”.

“As a gesture of solidarity with the people of India in the wake of the current wave of COVID-19, Pakistan has offered to provide relief support to India including ventilators, BiPAP, digital X-ray machines, PPEs and related items,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted.

In a letter on Friday addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, managing trustee of Pakistan charity Edhi Foundation Faisal Edhi pledged to send India some 50 ambulances.

Edhi Foundation runs clinics and orphanages across Pakistan while managing a fleet of ambulances in some of Pakistan’s most populous cities.


Russian pharmaceutical firm Pharmasyntez said on Monday it was ready to ship up to one million packs of the Remdesivir COVID-19 treatment to India by the end of May, once it receives approval from the Russian government.

In comments to Reuters news agency, the Russian drugmaker said it was waiting for a legal basis on which it could send the shipment of the generic version it produces of the US COVID-19 drug Remdesivir.


Turkey has offered aid to India, diplomatic sources said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke over the phone with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and conveyed his good wishes to India.

Source: News Agencies