WHO Chief says condition in India “beyond heartbreaking”

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The condition in India, where COVID-19 cases have risen sharply, is “beyond heartbreaking,” according to WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who also announced that additional personnel and supplies would be sent to the country to assist in the war against the pandemic.

“WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies, including thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals, and laboratory supplies,” Tedros told a briefing.

According to him, the WHO has redeployed 2,600 team members from other programs in India to assist in the battle against the disease, citing figures released last Friday.

India’s armed forces were ordered to assist in combating the surge in new coronavirus infections that are crippling hospitals on Monday when countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States vowed to provide immediate medical assistance.

“The exponential growth that we have seen in case numbers is really, truly astonishing,” Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, told the news conference.

“We have seen similar trajectories of increases in transmission in a number of countries, it has not been at the same scale and it has not had the same level of impact of a burden on the healthcare system that we have seen in India,” she said.

More than 45 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed to 120 economies via the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, which is operated by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the WHO. So far, the bulk of the shots have been produced by the Serum Institute of India for AstraZeneca.

GAVI CEO Seth Berkley asked how COVAX was compensating for India’s decision to delay vaccine exports, said: “We had expected 90 million doses for March and April for the 60 lowest income countries including India and those have not been made available”. Due to the current situation in India, they are also being used domestically.

“And we are waiting for when supplies will resume, we are looking at other options at the same time,” he said.

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