The UK Government is planning to send emergency supplies of medicines and equipment to India to help deal with the escalating epidemic in that country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.
British officials have been in talks with New Delhi in the past 48 hours to work out what assistance the UK can offer India.
Ministers believe they will be able to divert surplus stocks of medical equipment to the country in the coming days once they been told what would be most usefully deployed in hospitals whose capacity has been breached.
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The Prime Minister told reporters during a visit to Hartlepool: “We’re looking at what we can do to help and support the people of India, possibly with ventilators.
“Thanks to the ventilator challenge, the huge efforts of British manufacturers, we’re better able now to deliver ventilators to other countries.
“But also possibly with therapeutics, Dexamethasone, other things, we’ll look at what we can do to help.”
Mr Johnson has previously pledged to donate more than half of the UK’s surplus vaccine doses through the global Covax scheme, of which India is a recipient.
But the UK is also under pressure to cancel a late order of five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India to help the country look after its own population, after new daily infections reached a third of a million for the second day running.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think now is the time to donate the vaccines that we have available now.
“Yes it will delay the vaccine rollout for this country by a little bit. But the transmission is so low now in the UK, we’re in a position to do that.”
When asked whether the UK would cancel its order from India, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I am not going to get into details of supplies or deliveries but we remain confident in our supply.”