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US to send ‘strike team’ to India to help battle Covid-19 crisis

US President Joe Biden is sending a strike team of health experts and officials to assist India in its fight against the second wave of Covid-19

The United States is dispatching a “strike team” of health experts and officials to India to assist New Delhi in its battle against the second wave of Covid-19.

The team would work with India's public health experts on several fronts including laboratory services, epidemiology, infection prevention and vaccine rollout, a senior White House official told reporters after President Joe Biden spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The US is also sending oxygen equipment to India, as well as the drug Remdesevir, rapid-test supplies, personal protective gear and raw materials for the production of AstraZeneca vaccine. “We want to work in partnership with India, we are committed to getting the assistance they need, whether that's oxygen, PPE, therapeutics, tests or raw materials for vaccines." the Voice of America (VoA) reported quoting White House press secretary Jan Psaki. The US President Joe Biden spoke on Monday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in what a senior administration official described as "a warm and positive call." 

On Twitter, Modi said he "underscored the importance of smooth and efficient supply chains of vaccine raw materials and medicines,” adding that the partnership between the two countries "can address the global challenge of Covid-19."

"The United State government diverted our pending orders of vaccine filters to India's vaccine manufacturing effort. This will help India make more vaccines," Tim Manning, the White House Covid-19 Supply Coordinator.

 The Department of Defence and the US Agency for International Development are pursuing options to provide oxygen generation systems and working on the oxygen supply chain.

"We do have the Department of State working to finalise options for contracting oxygen including cylinder. We also have the Department of Defence working on oxygen generation systems including larger scale as well as smaller-scale units,” said the official, adding, “We also are exploring options to provide oxygen concentrations and ventilators and we're in technical discussions with India to ensure that the equipment we supply will connect the devices in India, and we're also going to be providing training associated with all of these requests as needed.”

According to the White House’s account of the conversation between the two leaders, Biden “(committed) that the United States and India will work closely together in the fight against Covid-19” and “pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in Covid-19 cases”.

“We will be providing materials for the production of the AstraZeneca CoviShield vaccine to the Serum Institute of India…given that there is not enough of the supply for the entire global manufacturing effort, we in the United States are diverting our order to India,” the official said. “Because of the scope of the current situation and the state of own production here at home, this is the most effective and rapid step we can take at this stage to provide support at scale”.