The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Friday said that India has more than sufficient amounts of hydroxychloroquine – the anti-malarial drug believed to be effective against the novel coronavirus – and that domestic necessity and demand remains a priority. Earlier this week, India had agreed to export the crucial drug to the United States after President Donald Trump threatened retaliatory action.

“If by the end of this month, the country needs an estimated 1.6 crore hydroxychloroquine tablets, it already has 3.28 crore, and in addition, the government has arranged for supplies for two to three crore additional tablets,” Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said at the daily press briefing.

When asked about the list of countries approved for export of HCQ, Ministry of External Affairs Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi said the decision was made on a first-come-first-serve basis and after assessing the global scenario. “Several countries have made requests for hydroxychloroquine,” he said. “The decision to export the drug was made after taking into view the domestic necessities and keeping a sufficient buffer for our own requirement.”

Follow live updates on coronavirus

Also read:

  1. As Trump backs HCQ against Covid-19, Indians who need drug for auto-immune diseases face shortage
  2. Covid-19: ‘India-US ties stronger than ever,’ says Modi after Trump thanks him for supplying HCQ
  3. Coronavirus: Donald Trump calls Modi ‘terrific’ after India supplies hydroxychloroquine to US

At the press briefing, Agarwal said the number of coronavirus cases in the country rose by 678 on Friday morning and 33 new deaths have been reported. According to the health ministry’s Friday evening update, there are 6,761 cases of coronavirus in India and 206 people have died. With 1,364 cases, Maharashtra is the worst-affected state. This is followed by Delhi where 898 cases have been reported.

The health ministry official assured that the country has not reached the stage of community transmission. “If there is community transmission in the country, we [the government] will be the first to inform people so they can be extra careful,” he said.

Agarwal also noted the attacks on healthcare workers, and urged people to show solidarity. “We may light candles to thank them but incidents of misbehaviour get highlighted,” he said. “Please do not do anything that hurts their morale.”

Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava said 14.3 lakh stranded migrant workers and the poor have been given shelter in 37,978 relief camps across India. Out of all these shelters, around 34,000 were set up by states and the rest by non-governmental organisations.

On evacuation of citizens stranded abroad

The Ministry of External Affairs said the Centre cannot provide a definite answer on the evacuation of citizens stranded in foreign countries amid the pandemic. He assured that Indian ambassadors were in constant touch with Indians abroad who were being guided through continuous interaction and support. “The situation will be reviewed at a later stage,’ he added.