Australia to send aid to India amid COVID catastrophe

29 Apr 2021

"The health system in India is clearly being overwhelmed by the pandemic and there are widespread shortages of critical medical supplies and equipment, including pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, ventilators and oxygen,” Dr Khorshid wrote. 

“Without sufficient access to these, there is no doubt that the death toll will continue to rise.” 

More than 200,000 people have died in India and more than 360,000 new cases were reported on Wednesday – a global record. 

“Australia has been very lucky during this pandemic to date, and there is no doubt that we have medical supplies and equipment that are surplus to our needs. 

“While we should not do anything that might impair our capacity to respond to fresh outbreaks, we cannot sit by and watch a longstanding friend of this country and its population suffer on such an immense scale.” 

Dr Khorshid told Sky News on Tuesday that Australia had a large stockpile of ventilators that could be sent over. 

“We've got to act in our national interest, but I think we are unlikely to face the kind of scenario that's going on there because of the decisions of our national Government and our State Governments is protecting us,” he said. 

“So, those stockpiles of equipment that were brought in thinking that we were going to face what was going on in Italy at the time, they're very unlikely to be needed. And I think they should be sent where they can do some good, because they're certainly not doing any good sitting in warehouses.” 

Prime Minister Morrison later announced that Australia would send 500 ventilators, one million surgical masks, and other PPE and equipment to India. 

The Prime Minister also announced a pause on flights from India until May 15. 

Dr Khorshid said that pause in flights would give Australia the chance to reset its hotel quarantine regime, following community transmission cases in Perth and Melbourne last week. 

While COVID-19 was mostly spread through droplets, it was clear that in some situations – including in Western Australia’s recent quarantine outbreak – aerosol spread also occurred, he told The Age. 

“The AMA has repeatedly called for urgent national action on airborne transmission in hotel quarantine,” Dr Khorshid said.  

“The pause in flights from India gives us the chance to revisit the settings and have a cohesive national approach.” 

You can watch Dr Khorshid’s interview here.