Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 29
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Thursday said the government is pulling out all stops to bridge short-term demand gap for oxygen, vaccines, medical equipment and injections from at least 40 countries.
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To ensure smooth supplies, no visas will be applicable for the crew of two special US flights that will land on Friday morning. As all aircraft will fly back immediately after offloading items, the crew does not need visas on arrival, said Shringla at a special briefing on India’s attempt to meet shortages that have led to a spiraling death toll.
“We are making sure that all equipment is expeditiously cleared,” he said. India is looking at imports of 550 oxygen generating plants, 4,000 oxygen concentrators and 10,000 oxygen cylinders from abroad besides ventilators and injections.
The government on Thursday also waived off paperwork for importers of medical devices. It has already set up a dedicated help desk to expedite customs clearance of imports related to Covid.
Supplies from the UK were the first to land on Tuesday followed by two special Russian aircraft on Wednesday evening carrying a large number of oxygen equipment, ventilators, bedside monitors and Favipiravir injections. Supplies from Ireland are also expected while shipments from France will land on Saturday.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held a video conference with all heads of overseas missions who have been scouring world markets such as Uzbekistan and Egypt. Besides, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Bhutan have also offered help.
Asked if the acceptance of aid marks a reversal of India’s policy of not accepting foreign aid, he said, “They are extending support as they feel that this is the time we must help India. So I do not think we are looking at it in policy terms. We are looking at it in terms of a situation that is very unusual, that is unprecedented, that is exceptional and we will do whatever it takes to meet the requirements of our people.”
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