U.S. coronavirus aid arrives in India as vaccine shortages continue

Medical supplies from the U.S. began arriving April 30, 2021. Photo: USAID Twitter

Emergency medical aid from the United States and other nations began arriving in India on Friday as the South Asian country’s crushing coronavirus outbreak continued to spiral and vaccinations in multiple regions ground to a halt because of dwindling supplies.

A U.S. Air Force transport plane carrying oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and rapid diagnostic tests landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi Friday morning, the first of several shipments the White House pledged to help India combat the pandemic.

“Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the U.S. is committed to working urgently to provide assistance to India in its time of need,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported another record number of new cases, logging 386,452 infections over the previous 24 hours. India has now registered more than 300,000 new cases every day for the past nine days, bringing its total number of infections to more than 18.7 million.

There were 3,498 new fatalities reported, pushing India’s official death toll past 208,000, although medical experts say that number is probably a substantial undercount.

Crematoriums and burial grounds are running out of space in the capital, New Delhi, according to local media reports. On Friday, just six intensive care beds were available for covid-19 patients, according to a government database.

Authorities in the commercial capital, Mumbai, paused vaccinations for three days because of dose shortages. India was scheduled to begin a mass immunization drive Saturday but several states have now said that the campaigns will be delayed.

India is one of the world’s largest vaccine producers but has struggled to ramp up production as global demand for specialized materials has soared.

In Delhi, the chief minister said Friday that the national capital territory had not yet received the doses it requested from both the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to begin inoculations.

In a briefing, he urged residents to stay home and away from vaccination centers.

“Don’t queue up for vaccines tomorrow. As soon as vaccines arrive we will let you know, then you can come for shots,” Arvind Kejriwal said, India’s NDTV reported.

“Many across the country have registered for vaccines but we have not received stocks. We are in regular touch with companies and we hope to get the vaccines in a day or two.”

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