Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand are seen during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday April 16, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada ‘stands ready to assist’ India amid pandemic’s 3rd wave, says minister

Canadian officials in Ottawa and the country’s envoy in New Delhi are discussing a “number of options” with their Indian counterparts to help India stem the deadly tide of the world’s worst coronavirus surge, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday.

Canada has procured 2.7 billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE) and has already received 1.5 billion of those items, Anand said, adding that it can spare some for India and other countries hit hard by the pandemic.

“We will stand ready with PPE and ventilators, and any items that might be useful for the government of India,” Anand told reporters during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other government officials in Ottawa.

“I, of course, have a personal connection with that country but on the broader level, when we see a country in need in that regard, we do stand ready,” said Anand whose parents immigrated to Canada from India.

2,263 deaths in 24 hours

A man performs the final rites of a relative who died of COVID-19, at a crematorium in Jammu, India, Friday, April 23, 2021. India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst coronavirus surge wears out the nation, which set another global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730. India has confirmed 16 million cases so far, second only to the United States in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. (Channi Anand/AP Photo)

Canada’s offer of help comes as India’s underfunded health system is teetering on the brink of collapse under the weight of record numbers of COVID-19 infections.

On Friday, India set a global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730 reported cases of COVID-19.

India has confirmed 16 million cases so far, second only to the United States in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. India has recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 186,920.

The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients.

The government started running Oxygen Express trains with tankers to meet the shortage at hospitals, Railroad Minister Piyush Goyal said. The air force also airlifted oxygen tanks and other equipment to areas where they were needed, and flew doctors and nurses to New Delhi, the government said.

“We have surplus oxygen at plants which are far off from places where it is needed right now. Trucking oxygen is a challenge from these plants,” said Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association. “We have ramped up the production as oxygen consumption is rising through the roof. But we have limitations and the biggest challenge right now is transporting it to where it’s urgently needed.”

FILE- In this April 19, 2021 file photo, people wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus line up without any physical distancing to get tested for COVID-19 at a government hospital in Jammu, India. India’s health system is collapsing under the worst surge in coronavirus infections that it has seen so far. Medical oxygen is scarce. Intensive care units are full. Nearly all ventilators are in use, and the dead are piling up at crematoriums and graveyards. (Channi Anand/AP Photo/File)

Canada closes air travel from India and Pakistan

The rising number of infections in South Asia, forced the federal government to suspend all air travel from India and Pakistan on Thursday.

Speaking at the press conference on Friday, Trudeau announced additional measures for passengers departing from India or Pakistan who come to Canada via indirect routes.

“These passengers will need to obtain a negative COVID-19 pre-departure test from the last country they travelled through before arriving in Canada,” Trudeau said.

“Just like when we suspended flights from the U.K. last December for similar reasons, our government will continue to do whatever it takes to keep Canadians safe.”

With files from The Associated Press

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