Aviation industry flies in to rescue India
With only about 30 million people being fully vaccinated out of a population of 1.4 billion, and about 125 million receiving a single dose, India faces an uphill task. India has millions more doses on order, but still far short of what it actually needs. The Indian government needs 1.2 billion doses to vaccinate everyone above the age of 45 years – constitute about 440 million people. Nearly 622 million people are between the age of 18 and 44 years.
Ordinarily, India produces 9,000 tonnes of liquid oxygen each day. Only 10 per cent to 15 per cent of that goes toward medical supplies. The rest is used in industry, such as steelmaking.
At the height of India's second wave, which is still ongoing, Covid patients needed between 9,000 and 11,000 tonnes of oxygen. India had the capacity to meet that demand, but it would require diverting up to 90 per cent of the country's oxygen supply from industrial sites.
The U.S. dispatched to the Indian capital its first shipment, which included more than 400 oxygen cylinders and 960,000 rapid-testing kits. Since then, at least four more shipments from the U.S., carrying more than 200,000 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir and additional oxygen support, have arrived in Delhi and Mumbai.
Countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, France, Uzbekistan, Thailand and many others, are sending ventilators, liquid oxygen and oxygen concentrators.
The Indian air force (IAF) transport fleet has played a crucial role in flying oxygen into India from overseas, and within India operating nearly 200 domestic and over 30 international Covid-19 relief missions, carrying a total of 184 oxygen containers.
In addition, the US Air Force has deployed at least one C-17 and one Lockheed C-5 to support India, with the C-5 carrying 545 oxygen concentrators.
Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has flown 700 oxygen concentrators from Guangzhou, China, 100 oxygen concentrators from Singapore. In all, the carrier has airlifted more than 4,400 oxygen concentrators over the last two weeks.
IndiGo has also flown in oxygen concentrators from China packed in aircraft seats. Air India has flown in 318 oxygen concentrators from India despite crew complaining that there is no support for crew contracting Covid. International airlines, like Qatar Airways, deployed three Boeing 777Fs carrying a total of 300 tonnes of medical supplies to Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi. The equipment delivered includes personal protection equipment, oxygen canisters, and other medical items.
India's health expenditure has been around 3.6 per cent of GDP for the past six years, the lowest percentage in the five Brics countries: Brazil spent the most at 9.2 per cent, followed by South Africa at 8.1 per cent, Russia at 5.3 per cent and China at 5 per cent in 2018.Developed nations spend a far higher proportion of their GDP on health.
In 2018, for instance, spending in the US was 16.9 per cent and Germany 11.2 per cent. Even smaller nations like Sri Lanka (3.76 per cent) and Thailand (3.79 per cent) spend more than India.And India has fewer than 10 doctors per 10,000 people, and in some states the figure is less than five.
While airlines help bring in much needed supplies to help India fight Covid, it will be a few years before the dreaded disease finally takes off from India.