China’s state-run Sichuan Airlines on Monday suspended all its cargo flights to India for 15 days, citing the deteriorating coronavirus situation, PTI reported.
The move is likely to cause major disruption in India’s efforts to procure the much-needed oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies from China. This came days after Beijing offered support and assistance to the country to deal with the latest surge of Covid-19 cases.
In a letter to the sales agents, the Sichuan Chuanhang Logistics, the company which is part of the Sichuan Airlines, said the airline had suspended its cargo flights on six routes, including Xian to Delhi, amid hectic efforts by private traders from both sides to procure oxygen concentrators from China.
“...in the face of sudden changes in the epidemic situation [in India], in order to reduce the number of imported cases” it was decided to suspend the flights for the next 15 days, the letter said, according to PTI.
“Indian route has always been the core strategic route for Sichuan Airlines,” it added. “This suspension has also caused great losses to our company. We are very sorry for the unchanged situation.”
The company said that it will review the situation after 15 days.
The move prompted criticism from sales agents and freight forwarders who are desperately trying to procure oxygen concentrators from China, amid an alarming shortage of supplies in India.
Sidharth Sinha of Sino Global Logistics, a Shanghai-based freight forwarding company, told PTI that the Sichuan Airlines decision to cancel flights had caused severe disruption to attempts by private traders in both the countries to secure quick supplies of the oxygen concentrators for use in India.
“Now it becomes very challenging to rush the supplies as they have to be rerouted through Singapore and other countries through different airlines, which delays the much-needed supplies,” he said.
India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days. This has left the country’s healthcare system in tatters, and several states are reeling under an acute shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
On April 23, China had said it was willing to offer support to India to tackle the crisis. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that Beijing is ready to provide outbreak prevention support and medical supplies to India, and was willing to communicate specific matters with New Delhi according to its needs.