The UN team in India is supporting the country's authorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing critical supplies and its agencies are procuring thousands of oxygen concentrators, oxygen generating plants and other essential equipment as well as helping set up mobile hospital units, a spokesperson for the UN chief said.
I know you've been asking about our support to India during the current surge in COVID-19 cases," Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Farhan Haq told reporters at the daily press briefing on Wednesday.
"Our team there, led by Resident Coordinator Renata Lok Dessallien, is supporting the authorities' response to the pandemic by providing equipment and supplies, including to local governments, Haq said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) are procuring equipment and supplies, including 7,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 nasal devices for oxygen supply, as well as oxygen generating plants, COVID-19 testing machines, and personal protective kits, he said.
Haq's comment comes a day after he said, in response to a question, that the UN had offered the assistance of its integrated supply chain if it was required but the offer was declined by India.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
We've been told at this point that it's not needed because India has a reasonably robust system to deal with this. But our offer stands, and we're willing to help in whatever way we can, Haq had said Tuesday. Haq said WHO is also helping to set up mobile hospital units and is providing for laboratories.
About 2,600 WHO field officers have been immediately deployed to support health authorities to curb the spread of the pandemic. In Maharashtra, UNICEF has engaged experts to work on risk governance. The UN team is also continuing its campaign highlighting the three Ws: Wear a mask, Wash your Hands, Watch your distance and stay six feet apart, he said.
According to the latest WHO figures, the death toll in India crossed 201,000 and confirmed cases in the country stand at nearly 18 million.
In India's time of need, the UN is doing everything it can to rapidly provide critical equipment and supplies to central and state governments," Dessallien said.
The WHO said in a press release that filling critical gaps in essential medical supplies and hospital capacities should be the top priority as India battles surge in COVID-19 cases. WHO is chartering flights to bring in 4,000 oxygen concentrators to help meet the increased demands.
The current rapid surge of COVID-19 cases has put immense pressure on the health systems, already overburdened since the start of the pandemic. We need to act with speed, expand hospital capacities and equip them with medical supplies, most needed to save lives, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.
A UN News article said the South-East Asian region has led the world in COVID-19 infections for a third straight week, mainly due to the situation in India.
In order to make available additional hospital beds and critical equipment for India, WHO is procuring mobile field hospitals with a capacity of 20-30 beds, which could be set up in the most affected areas.
The bed capacity at these field hospitals can be increased to a maximum of 50, if needed, without impacting infection prevention and control protocols, and water and sanitation, the WHO release added.
The agency is also providing for laboratories to meet the huge demand for testing, and over 2600 WHO technical staff, working on various programmes such as polio, TB and NTD, have been repurposed to support pandemic response in India.
WHO is procuring laboratory supplies, including 1.2 million reagents, to meet the huge demand and need for testing.
Khetrapal Singh added that with a rapid surge of cases, it is important to triage people well to optimize available resources such as ICU beds. Simultaneously, all efforts need to be made to scale up COVID-19 vaccination coverage, she added.
India this week completed a 100-day COVID-19 vaccination drive, with over 145 million doses administered.
Irrespective of the numbers that we see today or the virus variants that may be circulating during the ongoing surge, our key public health measures test, trace, isolate and treat along with physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and masks continue to be our tried and tested measures to curtail COVID-19 transmission, she said.
Underlining WHO's commitment to continue working with health authorities at all levels, Khetrapal Singh said Together we must do all we can to halt the current COVID-19 surge.Haq had said that the UN is in touch with authorities in India at various levels. Chef de Cabinet to the United Nations Secretary-General Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti has been in touch with India's Permanent Representative to the UN T S Tirumurti over the COVID-19 situation in India and other officials in the system have also been in touch with officials both here in New York and on the ground.