Jeremy Konyndyk, the senior advisor coordinating agency-wide Covid-19 efforts at USAID, told CNN on Thursday that shipping of supplies en route to India “has been developed very closely in close consultation with them.”
These shipments – the first from the Biden administration – left Travis Air Force Base, California aboard a U.S. Air Force aircraft on Wednesday and are expected to arrive in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Friday morning local time. A third shipment leaves Travis Air Force Base Friday with PPE, oxygen, test kits and masks.
The White House said Thursday that “additional flights with the remaining support, including oxygen generators and concentrators, are planned in the coming days.”
Konyndyk told CNN that the Indian government has asked USAID to “work through the Indian Red Cross to distribute supplies so that we can work primarily through that channel”.
Konyndyk said that in addition to the supplies that are currently being flown in, USAID directly supports hospitals and medical facilities in India through a private sector partnership and “also supports our NGO partners there” in doing things like supporting the oxygen supply chain in India, ” Noticing the problem of the supply chain is “the problem that we need to fix in the long run”.
“We are trying to run and chew gum at the same time to meet the immediate acute need for oxygen support in the Indian health system, but at the same time to find ways to increase the production of medical-grade oxygen that this may be the more sustainable solution to the problem, “said Konyndyk.
“The abruptness with which India kept getting worse and worse was remarkable,” he told CNN, noting that the United States has been supporting the country since last year.
“The really interesting and remarkable thing about it is that it is mutual,” Konyndyk continued. “Last year India also supported us on some of the darkest days of the pandemic here last spring. So we really see this as a partnership effort.”
According to a USAID press release, the shipment of relief supplies that left the US on Wednesday included “440 oxygen cylinders and regulators generously donated by the State of California,” and “960,000 rapid infection screening tests to help prevent spreading to the community Covid-19 and 100,000 N95 masks to protect Indian health heroes. “
Konyndyk told CNN that USAID was able to secure shipments from California after the state reached out to FEMA about a surplus and asked if it would help India.
Konyndyk told CNN he would “not rule out our (USAID) hiring additional personal staff,” but said they are trying to provide virtual assistance as much as possible.
Konyndyk said plans to share the AstraZeneca vaccine once it received FDA approval but declined to offer details or say whether India would be a top priority country for vaccine shipments, he said don’t want to be ahead of the White House.
In the meantime, the Biden government is working to partner with the private sector to provide further aid to India, he said.
“The mobilization from the private sector here is really unlike anything I’ve seen before,” said Konyndyk. “What we are seeing here is that US companies, truly global companies, are realizing the importance of supporting India and getting this surge under control for their business.”
On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other key administrative officials met with “US Business Leaders, the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-India Business Council” to discuss how the US and India can leverage the expertise and capabilities of the US -Private sector to support urgent COVID-19 relief efforts in India, “said a US State Department ad.
Konyndyk told CNN that he hoped the efforts showed they “will not treat the pandemic as something that is only a problem for the US”.
“I think this surge in India really highlights that,” he said. “It really highlights what is happening in India is having a profound impact on the United States. The back offices for IT, administration, call centers, and more are in India for many, many US companies.”
“Our interests and assets in relation to this pandemic are really inextricably linked to global pandemic trends and so we are really trying to demonstrate this,” Konyndyk said.