The British government is sending urgent shipments of medical equipment to India as a huge Covid wave overwhelms the country's health services.
More than 600 items, including ventilators and oxygen concentration devices, are being sent via nine cargo flights, with the first shipment leaving late on Sunday and arriving on Tuesday.
Describing the unfolding scenes in India as "heartbreaking", the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the government was “determined to support the people of India through this very difficult time”.
“This first delivery of lifesaving equipment will provide much-needed assistance and we stand ready to do more,” he said.
“The global pandemic has challenged health systems all across the world and the best way to overcome adversity is to unite and defeat this dreadful disease together.”
For the fourth day in a row, India set a world record for the number of new coronavirus infections, with 349,691 more infections and another 2,767 lives lost in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.
The surge in cases is such that there is now not enough oxygen to treat every patient, with distressing scenes in some cities of people being treated in the streets, and oxygen tankers with police escorts.
The supplies to be flown in from the UK include 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators.
Boris Johnson, who last week cancelled a trip to India because of the unfolding crisis, said the UK would stand “side-by-side with India as a friend and partner”.
He added: “We will continue to work closely with the Indian government during this difficult time and I’m determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against the pandemic.”
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, confirmed that the UK would be "following up on this first delivery with further support, based on our ongoing discussions with the Indian government”.
The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, called on the government to go further and send India surplus Covid-19 vaccine doses and therapeutic drugs, as well as sharing UK expertise in genome sequencing to help track the outbreak.
“Defeating this virus anywhere means defeating it everywhere,” she said.
“We have seen how quickly Covid-19 variants that have been identified in one country are able to spread rapidly across the globe.
“The UK can offer expertise and capacity in crucial areas like genome sequencing and epidemiology that have already proven vital in mapping and restricting the spread of coronavirus. It is vital, not only for protecting the lives of millions in the subcontinent, but also in limiting the spread of potentially vaccine-resilient variants to our own shores.”
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