Coronavirus | U.S. government set to donate 200 ventilators to India, first tranche of 50 to arrive soon

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The U.S. government is planning to “donate” 200 ventilators to India with the first tranche of 50 expected to arrive soon as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, an American official said on Tuesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump had announced last week that the U.S. will donate ventilators to India to treat the COVID-19 patients and help it fight the “invisible enemy”.

Asked about reports that the ventilators may come at a cost for India, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Director Ramona El Hamzaoui, during a tele-briefing with the media, asserted that it was a “donation”.

“The U.S. government is planning to donate 200 ventilators to India. We expect the first tranche of 50 to arrive soon,” she said.

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The USAID on behalf of the U.S. and through the generosity of the American people and the innovation of the American private industry is providing access to medical supplies and ventilators to India and other countries, Ms. Hamzaoui said.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Indian Red Cross Society and other relevant stakeholders in India and the U.S. to assist in the delivery, transportation and placement of these donated ventilators,” she said.

These ventilators will complement India’s ongoing efforts to make the best of care immediately available to those most in need, she added. Asked if the ventilators were being provided as part of some sort of a deal after India supplied hydroxychloroquine to the U.S., Ms. Hamzaoui, “I do not think it is a quid pro quo. It is a partnership.”

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The U.S. is providing ventilators to countries based on what is available and supporting partner countries. Asked about American financial aid to countries in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Hamzaoui said the USAID and the U.S. Department of State has made available USD 900 million to combat the deadly virus globally.

With regard to India specifically, the USAID has announced USD 5.9 million in funding to combat COVID-19, including USD 2.9 million to help India provide care for the affected, disseminate essential public health messages to communities, strengthen case finding, contact tracing and surveillance, she said at the briefing organised by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

“We have also developed COVID-19 print and social media communication material and we are training community health officers working in over 30,000 health and wellness centres in 14 states on COVID-19 readiness and response,” Ms. Hamzaoui said.

“Today the USAID has been able to train in partnership with the government of India more than 20,000 healthcare workers who cover more than 100 million people,” she said.

The rest of the USD 3 million aid is to support the national health authority to establish a financing facility that can mobilise resources from the private sector, the USAID official said.

To a question on President Donald Trump’s letter to the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) threatening to pull the U.S. funding permanently over COVID-19, the U.S.’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Mission Director Meghna Desai said during the briefing that “we are working to ascertain the implications to ensure that we have limited impact to our activities particularly global emergency response activities”.

The pandemic has made it clear that the world has more in common and COVID-19 has to be fought unitedly, Ms. Desai said.

On the U.S.’ COVID-19 vaccine-development efforts, the U.S. Health Attache Preetha Rajaraman the search for a vaccine remains one of the U.S.’ highest priorities.

The U.S. National institutes of health has allocated USD 350 million towards this effort, while an additional allocation of USD 2.6 billion for the development and bringing to market has also been pledged, she said.

Responding to a question about CDC aid to India, Ms. Desai said it has pledged USD 3.6 million to assist the government of India in response to COVID-19 and the selection of partners for the aid was based on the scope of work and in concurrence with the Ministries of the Indian government.

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