India will buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with the coronavirus, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment.
India has recorded 1,397 cases of the coronavirus, with 35 deaths, but health experts say the country of 1.3bn people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries like South Korea and China, to meet shortages.
“China, definitely we are going to buy... Because scaling up our domestic production will take time,” said a top policy official aware of the plan, who declined to be identified due to sensitivity of the discussions.
The Netherlands has recalled thousands of masks imported from China because of quality issues, while Spain has complained about defective imported test kits supplied by a Chinese manufacturer, media have reported.
China’s foreign ministry said several countries had raised doubts about the quality of products imported from China, and acknowledged that there might be some problems.
“A large number of Chinese manufacturers are working around the clock to help other countries save lives. Our sincerity and assistance is real. If problems occur in this process, the Chinese side will talk to relevant departments,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference on Monday.
A second source with direct knowledge of the government plans said Chinese manufacturers had shown keen interest in supplying protective health gear to India, lodging queries with Indian diplomatic missions in Shanghai and Beijing.
China was emerging as a favourite possible supplier at this stage as new virus infections were slowing there and its factories were being pushed to reopen, the second source said.
India needs at least 38mn masks and 6.2mn pieces of personal protective equipment as it confronts the spread of coronavirus, according to a report by its investment agency.
But Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) an influential nationalist group close to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, said India should look at domestic alternatives because of widespread concern over the quality of China’s equipment.
“I don’t think we need Chinese support of any kind for our healthcare... Even if Indian firms produce at a higher cost, it doesn’t matter,” Ashwani Mahajan, a national co-convener of the SJM, said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said Air India was likely to transport the critical medical equipment from China starting April 3.
The ministry said Air India has established a cargo air-bridge between India and China.
“Regular cargo flights for transporting critical medical equipment and supplies between the two countries are likely to be operated by Air India from 3 April 2020 onwards,” it said.
l A former central Minister and sitting legislator from Arunachal Pradesh has urged the Indian government to file a case of biological warfare against China and seek compensation.
Senior Congress leader Ninong Ering in a letter to the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the Indian government must file a case in international forums such as International Court of Justice (ICJ) against China and ask for compensation of $ 22bn.
Ering told the minister that a united effort must be undertaken with support of other countries.
“India must unite with other nations on this and also demand an international investigation on Wuhan novel coronavirus in China to ensure safety of the posterity from any such incidents in future,” said Ering.
The former minister said that reliable media reports suggested that China has unleashed a bio-warfare programme of Wuhan coronavirus and put world peace and security at the greatest threat.
“The whole of the world is under lockdown now and it has crumbled the global economies including our country’s,” Ering said in his letter.
“Our state forms an international boundary with China and is under constant threat and fear of Chinese evil deeds,” he added.
Arunachal Pradesh shares 1,080km borders with China, 520km with Myanmar and 217km with Bhutan.
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