Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Where are the 300 tonnes of emergency Covid-19 supplies that have landed in Delhi in last five days?

In the past five days, 25 flights loaded with 300 tonnes of emergency Covid-19 relief supplies have landed in India’s capital from around the world. The supplies include 5,500 oxygen concentrators, 3,200 oxygen cylinders and 1,36,000 remdesivir injections, said a spokesperson of the Delhi International Airport Limited.

The emergency aid could save lives. But it seems not to have reached even those who are gasping for oxygen a few km away.

“As far as I know, we have not received anything so far,” said Dr Nutan Mundeja, Director General of Health Services, Delhi government.

Delhi, which has nearly 100,000 active Covid-19 cases and 20,000 patients in hospital, is facing a crippling shortage of oxygen. On May 1, 12 patients, including a doctor, died in Batra Hospital after it ran out of the life-saving gas.

By April 30, Delhi Airport had received 500 oxygen concentrators from the United Kingdom, 700 from Ireland. On May 2, another 1,000 oxygen cylinders arrived from the United States and 150 oxygen concentrators from Uzbekistan.

Yet, hospitals and families continue to make desperate appeals for oxygen on social media, while the status of the emergency supplies remains unclear, barring oxygen generation units sent by France which have been earmarked for eight hospitals, six of them in Delhi.

Not just Delhi, the emergency relief supplies seem not to have been dispatched to other states in India.

“There is no record of Covid related medical aid being sent to domestic destinations,” said the spokesperson of Delhi Airport around noon on Monday.

The Ministry of External Affairs told The Hindu that an Empowered Group of Ministers and officials was fielding requests from state governments. But officials in six states told Scroll.in on Monday that they have not heard from the Centre about whether they will be receiving any share in the emergency supplies.

Much of the Covid-19 assistance arriving at the Delhi Airport is being handed over to the Indian government through the Indian Red Cross Society, a non-profit organisation with close links with the government.

“Consignments that come from abroad are generally handed over to Indian Red Cross Society,” said the airport spokesperson. “It is they who distribute as per GOI [Government of India] directive.” A dedicated logistic facility called the Jeevoday warehouse had been set up over 3,500 square metres at the airport for the interim storage of Covid-19 relief materials, he added.

Four shipments sent by the United States have landed at Delhi airport between Friday morning and Sunday night. “As each US shipment arrives, USAID is transferring ownership of provided materials upon their arrival to the Government of India through the Indian Red Cross organisation,” said a spokesperson of the US embassy in New Delhi. “We refer you to the Government of India for information about the deployment and use of these materials subsequent to their transfer.”

RK Jain, the secretary general of the Indian Red Cross, said its role was confined to getting the consignments cleared through customs and handing them over to HLL Lifecare Limited, a central government company which he said was handling storage and logistics. “The allocation is done by the [health] ministry,” he said.

03/05/21 Arunabh Saikia & Supriya Sharma/Scroll.in

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