Countries need to cooperate and help each other minimise the damage caused by COVID-19, India's envoy here has said, as he thanked the Singapore government, people and corporate sector for their help to India in terms of medical supplies and financial donations to fight the devastating second wave of the pandemic.
Highlighting Singapore's status as a vital trade and logistics hub, Indian High Commissioner P Kumaran on Thursday said that they have thus been able to mop up supplies of various essential items such as cryogenic oxygen tanks, oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators and BiPAP machines and ventilators.
"We are thankful to the Government of Singapore and its various departments, particularly Ministries of Trade and Industry, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Health and Enterprise Singapore for their support in these challenging times. We are also grateful for the assistance channelled to India through Temasek Foundation," he said.
Till date, 85 ISO tanks, 8,300 concentrators, 16,000 cylinders, 2,000 BiPAP/Ventilators have been sent to India from Singapore. These were delivered to India by 22 Indian Air Force plane sorties and three shipments by the Indian Navy ships, said Kumaran. He was speaking at a SGD 1 million (approx 5.50 crore INR) cheque presentation by the Singapore business community to Singapore Red Cross for support to Indian hospitals and medical institutions in their fight in the country's worst health crisis.
"These are difficult times, as the virus continues to mutate and find ways around our defensive strategies. Unlike us human beings, the virus has one job – to survive. It will do everything it can to survive and prosper for as long as it can," said Kumaran at the ceremony on Thursday.
The cheque was from donations collected and funds raised by Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) and the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA).
"Our countries need to cooperate and help each other minimise the damage caused by COVID-19. It is clear by now that no one is safe until everyone is safe and the virus is eradicated from all regions," he said.
"The 2nd wave took us all by surprise. The Centre, and many State governments, are preparing more carefully for a possible third wave," he told the virtual ceremony at the SICCI.
Tamil Nadu's Minister for Finance and Human Resources Dr P. Thiagarajan also joined the virtual ceremony. The High Commissioner also gave an update on COVID-19 situation in India.
"As you are aware, the numbers in India are now receding, after reaching nearly 450,000 new cases per day and over 4,200 deaths per day. The number of infections per million persons reached 283," he said.
Based on current trends, it now appears that the second wave may have peaked around the middle of May. "The B.1.617 strain, which is much more infectious, caused havoc to our healthcare system," the envoy said. With 134,000 new cases and 2,887 deaths, as of Wednesday, the infections per million have dropped to about 97 now.
The situation is improving fast, with substantial improvement in medical oxygen availability (nearly 9 times increase in production). A large number of ISO tanks, oxygen cylinders and concentrators have been procured from all over the world, including Singapore," he said.
Vaccine availability is being ramped up in a big way, with several new production facilities being set up and arrangements being made to procure vaccines from abroad. In about 4-6 weeks, the government targets availability to reach 10 million doses per day, so that the vaccination programme can proceed ahead at full speed.
"We are thankful to the Indian community and to SICCI for the support for Covid-mitigation efforts in India, both in terms of essential equipment such as oxygen cylinders and concentrators and also for pooling together contributions from their members and other corporate donors, such as LISHA, Adani Group's office in Singapore, Baring Equity Asia, and others," he said.
He noted that a number of Indian diaspora organisations have chipped in with appreciable efforts, including "I Breathe for India" by IIT-AA and TiE which raised SGD 3.5 million (approx 19 crore INR); SICCI SGD 3.6 million (approx 19 crore INR); Pan-IIM-AA SGD 5.4 million (approx 29 crore INR); Singapore Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry SGD 50,000 (approx 29,00,000 INR) and Singapore Exchange SGD 100,000 (approx 55,00,000 INR).
Among others, “SUMO”, an initiative by Indian alumni of prominent Singaporean Universities such as NUS, NTU, SMU etc., had raised SGD 200,000 for procuring oxygen cylinders and concentrators as well as contributions in many ways by the Global Indian International School, Art of Living Foundation and Regional/State-level associations formed in Singapore by people of Indian origins.