S’pore has sent 256 oxygen cylinders and more to support India’s COVID-19 efforts: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan – The Online Citizen Asia

Singapore has sent 256 oxygen cylinders to support Indian’s pandemic response, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, delivered directly to West Bengal by two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 aircrafts.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question on Singapore’s efforts to help India through the worsening COVID-19 crisis there, Dr Balakrishnan noted that the country is also facilitating India’s efforts in procuring COVID-19 supplies through Singapore based entities, or by providing transport and logistical support.

“For example, we are supporting ongoing efforts by the Indian Air Force to airlift cryogenic tanks from Singapore in several batches, and facilitating Indian naval ships coming to Singapore to pick up relief supplies,” said the Minister.

He added that many Singapore-based private sector entities and civil society organisations are also chipping in, such as Temasek Foundation sending urgent relief supplies and essential medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, oximeters and ventilators.

“[The Foundation] is working with Indian partners to ensure that these are distributed to areas in need. Singapore Airlines has helped to airlift these items to India,” he added.

Beyond that, Dr Balakrishnan said that the Singapore Red Cross has launched a fundraiser and is currently coordinating contributions from the public and private sector entities which would be channelled towards procuring and distributing necessary medical supplies and equipment to India.

Since late April, India has been experiencing a relentless new wave of COVID-19 infections, with daily new cases rising to over 400,000 and death of over 4,000 a day.

On Thursday (6 May), India saw record new jumps in COVID-19 cases and deaths. It’s health ministry numbers showed 3,980 deaths in the previous 24 hours, taking the national total to 230,168, and 412,262 new cases, bringing India’s caseload since the pandemic began to 21.1 million.

India has recorded over a quarter of a million COVID-19 deaths so far, the second highest death toll of the pandemic.

As the situation quickly deteriorated in India, countries around the world began imposing bans on flights from the country. On 23 April, Singapore barred all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have traveled to India within the last 14 days from entering or transiting through the country as it went into “heightened alert”.

The new measure even applied to those who had prior approval for entry.

Another aspect of the rise in cases in India is the new variant of the virus first detected in the country last October. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has just classified it as being “of concern” on Monday (10 May) given that it appears to be more transmissible than other variants.

“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s lead on COVID-19, told reporters.

“As such, we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said.