WHO vows to help India amid virus surge

·2-min read

The situation in India - where coronavirus cases have surged - is "beyond heartbreaking" and the World Health Organisation is sending extra staff and supplies there to help fight the pandemic, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says.

"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 on Monday.

The WHO has redeployed 2600 staff members from other programs in India to help support the effort to fight the disease, he said, citing figures provided last Friday.

India ordered its armed forces on Monday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming hospitals, as countries including the UK, Germany and the US pledged to send urgent medical aid.

"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 burden on the healthcare system that we have seen in India," she said.

The COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, run by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the WHO, has provided more than 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 120 countries.

The majority so far are the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India.

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. Given the crisis in India now they are being used domestically.

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