April 24, 2021 9:12:10 pm
The US is working closely with India to identify ways to help address the current COVID-19 crisis in the country, American officials have said, as the Biden administration came under intense pressure from various quarters to ship COVID-19 vaccines along with life-saving medical supplies to it.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that the US offers its deepest sympathy to the people of India who are suffering during this global pandemic.
“We are working closely with Indian officials at both political and experts’ level to identify ways to help address the crisis,” Psaki said at her daily news conference.
She said the US has made vaccine cooperation a big priority, including with its Quad partners.
“India is one of our Quad partners, of course, in discussing vaccine creation and distribution for the future. We’ve also provided for a billion dollars to COVAX,” she said in response to a question.
The Quad is the grouping of India, the US, Japan and Australia.
“From the earliest stages of the pandemic, we’ve provided India with emergency relief supplies, medical consumables, pandemic training for Indian state and local health officials, and ventilators, which has been part of our effort over the course of time, including USD 1.4 billion in health assistance to India to help them prepare for pandemics in the future and deal with the current one we’re facing,” Psaki said.
Psaki said there are ongoing discussions over the matter.
“I don’t have anything more to preview, but we are in touch with them at a range of levels about how we can help them get through this period of time,” Psaki said.
At a separate White House news conference, Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said that India is going through a very terrible situation right now.
“They’ve had yesterday the largest number of cases that has ever been reported by any country. They have a situation there where there are variants that have arisen. We have not yet fully characterised the variants and the relationship between the ability of the vaccines to protect but we’re assuming clearly, that they need vaccines,” he said.
India on Friday added a record over 3.32 lakh new coronavirus cases in a single day taking the country’s tally to 1,62,63,695, while active cases crossed the 24-lakh mark. The death toll rose to 1,86,920 with a record 2,263 new fatalities.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with its counterpart agency in India to provide technical support and assistance, Fauci said.
“But it is a dire situation that we’re trying to help in any way we can; we just have to see how things go. And obviously, they need to get their people vaccinated because that’s the only way we’re going to turn that around,” Fauci said.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said that the US has a longstanding commitment to India’s public health and is working closely with them in the COVID-19 response.
“This is a global pandemic and India demonstrates the risk of what can happen if we don’t get the pandemic under control everywhere. It’s why we made the biggest investment in COVAX and we are committed to sharing vaccine supply as our confidence around our supply increases, we will explore those options,” Zients said.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters that the US continues to work closely with India to facilitate the movement of essential supplies and also address the bottlenecks of the supply chains.
“The COVID-19 situation in India is a global concern,” she said.
“We also continue to collaborate with our partners in India to battle this at the highest level. We know Secretary (of State, Tony) Blinken spoke to his counterpart on Tuesday and we remain deeply engaged with India at all levels as we work to combat this crisis of the pandemic together,” Porter said.
The remarks by American officials came as the Biden administration came under intense pressure from various quarters, including the powerful US Chambers of Commerce, lawmakers and eminent Indian-Americans, to ship COVID-19 vaccines along with several life-saving medical supplies to India.
“As the Covid pandemic inflicts a heavy toll on countries around the globe, the US Chamber strongly encourages the administration to release the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in storage – as well as other life-saving support – for shipment to India, Brazil, and other nations hard-hit by the pandemic,” said Myron Brilliante, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.
He said these vaccine doses will not be needed in the US, where it’s estimated that vaccine manufacturers will be able to produce enough doses by early June to inoculate every American.
The US Chambers issued the statement after Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar sought global help in the fight against COVID-19.
Congresswoman Rashida Talib tweeted that the COVID-19 crisis in India is a harsh reminder that the pandemic is not over until the whole world is safe.
President Biden “must support a patent waiver to ramp up global production now,” she said.
Shekar Narasimhan, a major Democratic fundraiser for Biden’s presidential campaign, urged the President to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and “see if we can lend 10 million doses of AZ (AstraZeneca) vaccines like tomorrow.”
“We have to do something in the face of a humanitarian disaster,” he said.
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