Prince Charles has spoken of his deep sadness at the devastating surge of coronavirus in India, as he urged the public to back an appeal to buy oxygen equipment for the stricken nation.
Charles sent a message to the people of India, telling of his heartbreak at the “tragic images we have all seen as Covid-19 takes its horrific toll”.
He pledged: “Together, we will win this battle.”
India’s coronavirus death toll now stands at more than 200,000, as a surge of new infections tears through cities and rural areas alike and leaves healthcare systems on the brink of collapse.
Hospital cases and deaths have reached record highs, overwhelming healthcare workers, while patients are suffocating because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out.
The British Asian Trust, which the prince founded in 2007, has launched its Oxygen For India emergency appeal to raise funds for oxygen concentrators, and, together with local partners in India, will rapidly deploy them to hospitals and patients most in need.
Charles has made a personal donation to the campaign.
The prince said: “I have been deeply saddened by the tragic images we have all seen as Covid-19 takes its horrific toll in India.
“Like many others, I have a great love for India and have enjoyed many wonderful visits to the country.
“Indian aid and ingenuity has been a support to other countries through this immensely difficult time.
“As India has helped others, so now must we help India.”
He added: “I would also want those suffering the effects of this pandemic in India to know that they are in my thoughts and prayers. Together, we will win this battle.”
For the past week, more than 2,000 Indians have died every day.
During an urgent question on the issue in the Commons, Nigel Adams, a Foreign Office minister, said the UK had pledged to offer further support to India in response to the country’s alarming spike in infections.
He said the first shipment of 200 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators arrived in the country on Tuesday and a further 400 concentrators would follow on Wednesday and Thursday.
“This equipment will boost the oxygen supplies in India’s hospitals, which remain under severe pressure,” he told MPs. “So, it’s without doubt that support provided by the United Kingdom will save lives.”
However, the shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy stressed that Britain “can and must do more”, suggesting it would be a test of the bond between the two countries.
“I welcome the 600 pieces of equipment that we have shipped so far, but he will know through his discussions that India is still badly short of oxygen, cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and therapeutic drugs,” she told MPs.
This week, a leading doctor in India, Dr Zarir Udwadia, called the UK’s donation a “political gesture” and said 600 pieces of equipment is a “drop in the ocean”
Additional reporting by Press Association
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