The Union health ministry’s “restricted” internal government database on Covid-19 foreign aid showed that India had received 57,69,442 medical items till May 4, of which 3,05,721 items had not been allocated as of May 6 – the last day the database was updated, The Reporter’s Collective has found, according to The News Minute.
The report highlighted that the procedure of clearing Covid-19 foreign aid involves a special cell comprised of at least 10 senior government officials. The medical aid from 28 countries has been coming into the country since April 25.
This is despite the fact that the Union health ministry on May 4 said that all medical equipment and other materials it had received from the global community had been dispatched to 31 states and Union Territories. “All possible attempts have been made to distribute them immediately,” the statement released by the Union health ministry had said.
Hours after the Union government’s statement, the Centre refuted reports that it had wasted time in effective allocation and distribution of the materials.
“While the Standard Operating Procedure for allocations was issued by the Health Ministry on 2nd May, 2021, the work for receipt, allocation and distribution to the States and UTs through the Central and other Health Institutions started immediately as the global community started to support the Government of India efforts for fighting the global pandemic,” the Centre said in its statement on the evening of May 4.
As of May 6, out of the 57,69,442 Covid-19 relief materials received by India, the internal Union government database showed that 23,62,538 were “on the way”. This included relief material received as early as April 30, The Reporters Collective found.
One of these consignments took several days to reach the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi from the city’s Palam airport, which is only around 10 km away.
After May 6, information on the internal government database was either not updated or the details were not shared with other ministries, with most of the information reported to be broken, a central government official told The Reporters Collective.
Neither the Ministry of External Affairs nor the Union health ministry have responded so far.
On May 3, Scroll.in was the first to report that 300 tonnes of foreign assistance had arrived at Delhi airport since April 28, but states were yet to hear about their share in it. Interviews of state officials had revealed that the distribution process began as late as May 3 evening, more than a week after the first batch of emergency Covid-19 assistance arrived in India.
On May 5, a day after the Centre said it had dispatched Covid-19 relief supplies donated by other countries to states and medical institutions across India, some hospitals identified as the recipients still awaited the supplies.
On May 12, the NITI Aayog tweeted that “87 consignments from 28 countries” had been received and subsequently delivered “without delay” to states. “Priority is given to high case burden & resource-scarce states,” the tweet read. “Distribution is based on a Standard Operating Procedure. All States/UTs have been supported to date.”
However, Kerala Health Secretary Dr Rajan Khobragade told The Reporters’ Collective on May 11 that the state had received only a few units of oxygen concentrators that “were dispatched 7 days ago, even though the order quoted a larger amount”. Khobragade said the state was yet to receive any other item.
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected India’s healthcare system. Multiple states have reported shortages of medical equipment, drugs, and oxygen, with some even seeking help from high courts to ensure they get uninterrupted supplies of the life-saving gas to save patients.
India on Friday registered 3,43,144 new coronavirus cases, pushing the tally in the country to 2,40,46,809 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. The toll climbed by 4,000 to 2,62,317. There are 37,04,893 active cases and 2,00,79,599 patients have recovered from the infection.