U.S. officials pledge sustained response to India's COVID crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Senior U.S. officials on Tuesday pledged sustained support for India in dealing with its Covid-19 crisis, warning that the country was still at the “front-end” of the crisis.

FILE PHOTO: A man carrying wood walks past the funeral pyres of those who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during a mass cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The White House’s National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, told a briefing on the U.S. response that President Joe Biden had told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a phone call on Monday, “You let me know what you need and we will do it.”

Campbell said helping India respond to the crisis would take a sustained effort and Washington was committed to this.

“We all have to realize that this is not a challenge that is going to resolve the next several days,” he said, adding that addressing the crisis was not only important for people in India, but for the United States, given India’s essential role as global provider of vaccines.

The U.S. State Department’s coordinator for global COVID-19 response, Gayle Smith, added: “We all need to understand that we are still at the front-end of this. This hasn’t peaked yet.”

“So this is going to require determination … we’re going to work really hard for some time, but we’re confident we can do it,” she said. “We anticipate that at the height of this kind of complex emergency, it’s going to be very fluid for a while as things fall into place. We are collectively going to have to be very agile and very nimble.”

Jeremy Konyndyk, the global COVID-19 adviser for USAID said the agency was concerned about the situation in countries in the same region as India and wanted to support both India’s capacity to get the situation under control and the wider region.

He said the United States was providing some badly needed raw materials to the Serum Institute of India to allow it to scale up the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine in India.

With India’s death toll from COVID-19 racing towards the 200,000-mark, medical supplies from across the world are being flown into the country to help overburdened hospitals struggling with a severe shortage of life-saving oxygen and drugs.

Nations including Britain, Germany and the United States have pledged support, while the World Health Organization said it was working to deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators, calling the situation in India “beyond heartbreaking”.

Two Indian government sources told Reuters earlier on Tuesday India expects to secure the biggest chunk of the 60 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses the United States will share globally.

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