Foreign Covid aid pours in, but “teething problems” in distribution

Prime News, National (New Delhi), May 4:- As the world responds to India’s Covid SOS, questions have emerged over whether foreign aid, including a vast number of oxygen machines and life-saving drugs, is reaching its destination. Government officials admit to “teething problems” in distributing foreign aid. To tackle one of them – delays at customs – the government today put out an online form for importers.

Twenty flights have arrived with foreign aid but a large number of oxygen concentrators and Remdesivir have been stuck at customs for weeks. Sheer logistics and “compatibility problems” are causing delays, officials have told NDTV.

“The first priority is to send foreign aid to government hospitals since they offer these facilities free of cost,” the official said.

For example, he explained, oxygen cylinders that arrived from the UK were sent to Delhi’s Lady Hardinge hospital, Safdarjung, AIIMS and DRDO hospitals in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Patna.

Offers of aid, pouring from abroad, are being processed under different categories like – government to government, private to government, private to states, private sector and Indians overseas and NGOs.

“We process offers of aid that are coming – anything from oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, oxygen-generating machines, ventilators, oxygen beds, medicines are being accepted immediately,” said the official.

The offer is sent to the Union Health Ministry, which then puts it on a WhatsApp group of an inter-ministerial group for decisions like what to accept.

“The problem is some offers come with different specifications, so technical teams look at those details whether they are compatible or not,” said officials.

So far 20 flights have come from abroad with aid. Some 900 oxygen cylinders, 1,600 concentrators and 1,217 ventilators have arrived apart from life-saving medicines.

The problems in distributing them include the logistics of sending these by vehicles to their destinations.

Yesterday, the Delhi High Court asked the Centre for details of oxygen concentrators lying at the airport, waiting for Customs clearance at a time hospitals and Covid patients are in crisis.

Senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal urged the court to ask the customs department to clear the oxygen concentrators “on war footing”. He also said 3,000 concentrators meant for Max Hospitals were lying with customs for clearance. To the court’s question on how many concentrators were stuck at customs, the Centre said: “This is a dynamic number. There is an order saying the clearance process has to be completed within 3 hours.” (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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