Lisa Nandy has demanded that the UK government step up efforts to support India in its fight against Covid as she stressed the “bond between our two nations” and warned of a “global emergency that has consequences for all of us”.
Challenging the minister after she tabled an urgent question in parliament this afternoon, the Shadow Foreign Secretary urged the government to provide additional support and equipment to authorities in the country.
“For many of us in Britain, our ties to India are personal,” Nandy told MPs today. “My father came to this country from India, and being half Indian is an important part of who I am.
“Family ties between our countries are woven into the fabric of this nation. For the more than one million British Indians of different generations, this is a moment of fear and anxiety.”
She highlighted that India is currently trying to manage 40% of all new Covid cases reported in the world and that more than two million have been identified in the past week, warning: “The peak of this crisis may yet be weeks away.”
Nandy demanded that the minister urgently “ramp up delivery” of supplies including oxygen, cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and therapeutic drugs such as remdesivir, and work with global partners like the EU to coordinate support.
“It is now almost a year ago to the day, when the UK was steeped in our own crisis, woefully unprepared for the pandemic, and forced to ask the world for help,” the Shadow Foreign Secretary reminded parliament this afternoon.
“It was India who stepped forward and approved the export of three million packets of paracetamol in an act of solidarity and friendship,” she added. “There are millions of people in India, around the world and in the UK for whom this is a test of the bond between our two nations.”
Foreign office minister Nigel Adams, answering on behalf of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, told MPs that “the UK has been commended for the speed of its initial package” and that there is “more to come in terms of equipment and support”.
“I’m not entirely sure how much quicker we could have been,” Adams argued. He said the first shipment of 200 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators arrived on Tuesday and is already being distributed to hospitals.
Health authorities are struggling to combat the virus amid a wave of new cases in the country. Reports over the past week have shown hospital capacity overtaken and mass crematoriums set up as 115 people die from Covid every hour.
The World Health Organisation described the domestic situation as a “devastating reminder” of the destruction coronavirus can cause as authorities reported that the B.1.617 variant is spreading throughout the country.
B.1.617 has been dubbed as a “double variant” because it carries two different mutations. Concerns have been raised that these make the strain more infectious and better at evading antibodies gained from prior infections or vaccinations.
The medical equipment sent by the UK government to help the country cope with the surge in coronavirus cases has been described as just a “political gesture” that will have little impact by a leading Indian health specialist.
Dr Zarir Udwadia, who sits on a committee advising the Indian government on Mumbai’s response to the pandemic, argued that the donation was “a drop in the ocean” and called on the international community to do more to help.
22.6 million people in the country are fully vaccinated as of today. This is second only to the US but represents only 1.7% of the 1.4 billion people who live in the country. India is currently recording 320,000 new infections every day.
Concerns have been raised about the distribution of vaccines globally. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer reported in November last year that it had sold 82% of its jabs to the richest countries, accounting for just 14% of the world’s population.
"We can and must do more."
Shadow foreign secretary @LisaNandy says the "domestic tragedy" engulfing India constitutes a "global emergency" and has called on the foreign secretary to make it a "priority" to send more aid to the country.#COVID19: https://t.co/VpC0JOG5BD pic.twitter.com/AsM6LWejut
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 28, 2021