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U.S. Pledges Medical Aid To India, Where COVID-19 Is Overwhelming Hospitals

The body of a person who died of COVID-19 being laid for cremation on Sunday in Noida, India.
Sunil Ghosh
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
The body of a person who died of COVID-19 being laid for cremation on Sunday in Noida, India.

The United States will make more medical aid available to India in an effort to fight an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases. The pledge came during a phone call between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval on Sunday, as India has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic and the country's health system is collapsing.

"Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need," National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement, which went on to say that the U.S. will allow for the export of certain raw material urgently needed for vaccine production, as well as sending test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment, among other aid.

The U.S. had previously banned the export of raw vaccine materials, stating an obligation to take care of Americans first.

India reported nearly 350,000 new cases on Sunday, more than any country on any day since the pandemic began, the fourth day in a row the country has broken that grim world record. Many worry case numbers are woefully undercounted since test kits are hard to come by, and hospitals are completely overrun.

The sudden spike has caught the country completely off guard. In late January and early February of this year, cases were at record lows, and the Indian government declared an endgame to the pandemic. Restrictions were relaxed, travel resumed and gatherings came back.

Now cases and deaths have skyrocketed. Crematoriums are running day and night, unable to keep up with the bodies. There are desperate pleas for oxygen, hospital beds and medicine.

Oxygen is by far the biggest need in the country right now. Hospitals are trying to ration oxygen for the patients who are able to secure a hospital bed, which is difficult in itself. Hundreds, possibly thousands, die each day with doctors unable to help.

One longtime journalist who couldn't get treatment live-tweeted his declining oxygen levels until he died.

"I have never felt so desperate or helpless," Dr. Trupti Gilada said in a Facebook video she recorded of herself, weeping as she huddled in her car outside the Mumbai hospital where she works. "We are seeing young people. We have a 35-year-old who's on a ventilator. Please pray for our patients."

Sunday's pledge also said that the United States was urgently "pursuing options to provide oxygen generation," and would be deploying a team of public health advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development to work with health officials in India and at the U.S. Embassy.

Lauren Frayer contributed reporting from Mumbai.

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