An Australian relief package containing 1.5 million masks, 500 ventilators and hundreds of thousands of goggles, gloves and face shields has been sent to India to help quell a devastating, record-breaking COVID-19 outbreak.
"I stress this is an initial package; there'll be more to follow," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. ”India is a great friend of Australia and a comprehensive strategic partner. We will stand with them during this terrible crisis and for all Australians who are caught up in this terrible set of events.”
One hundred oxygen concentrators are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
The shipment comes after India recorded over 300,000 COVID-19 cases each day from April 22.
Total confirmed cases since January 2020 have now reached just under 18 million, but experts fear the number could realistically be as much as 30 times higher.
Alongside the relief package, the surge in numbers in the South Asian nation spurred Australia to suspend all flights directly and indirectly from India until at least May 15.
Morrison said a spike in COVID-19-positive people arriving from India in Australia's hotel quarantine system cemented the need to introduce a flight ban.
“[Positive cases] went from 90 the previous week to 143 the following week,” he explained.
BREAKING: Australia is standing by our friends in India! 🇦🇺🇮🇳— End COVID For All (@EndCOVIDForAll) April 27, 2021
A great step by @ScottMorrisonMP, @MarisePayne & @GregHuntMP that honours the strong ties between our two nations.#EndCOVIDforAll#Auspolpic.twitter.com/JIsR8Vkm3i
Around 700,000 Indians call Australia home, while 9,000 Australians are currently based, and stuck, in India.
The outbreak has ignited calls from both populations for additional support, with charities across the countries setting up campaigns and fundraising drives. Sports stars, meanwhile, have been inspired to donate money from their own pocket.
Pat Cummins, an Australian cricket champion currently playing for the Indian club Kolkata Knight Riders, pledged $50,000 AUD to the PM CARES Fund, specifically providing oxygen to India's overrun hospitals.
“At times like this, it is easy to feel helpless. I’ve certainly felt that of late,” Cummins said. “But I hope by making this public appeal, we can all channel our emotions into action that will bring light into people’s lives. I know my donation isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I hope it will make a difference to someone.”
Like Australia, the UK has distributed key medical supplies to India, sending ventilators and oxygen to Delhi on April 27.
The US has sent rapid diagnostic test kits and other essential medical equipment, while France, Germany, Canada, Romania, Luxembourg, China, Singapore, Pakistan and Sweden have promised to send oxygen.
Further critical supplies have been pledged by the European Union, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, New Zealand, Canada, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.