US assures India help to fight COVID-19 as health minister interacts with US counterpart

In a virtual meeting, the US government has announced $100 million in assistance to India to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US has assured India of its unwavering commitment to engage, collaborate, and fight the raging coronavirus crisis together as the health ministers of the two countries discussed the current surge in COVID-19 cases in India.

During a virtual meeting between US Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday, the two leaders noted that the India-US bilateral cooperation on COVID-19, which builds on a strong foundation, has been crucial not only for the health of the two countries but critical to the global response as well.

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The two ministers discussed the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in India and reaffirmed strong US support to India in this time of crisis, according to an official statement.

India is reporting over 400,000 coronavirus infections and more than 3,000 deaths daily for the last week.

India saw a record 4,187 fatalities due to COVID-19 in a single day, taking the country's death toll to 2,38,270, while 4,01,078 new infections were reported in a day, pushing the tally to 2,18,92,676, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Saturday.

Their meeting highlighted the strong relationship between the US and India. The US-India bilateral relationship in health — one of the oldest and most successful aspects of the wider US-India relationship — continues to be a major link between the two nations, cutting across several sectors, the statement said.

Expressing his gratitude to Vardhan for India's help and generosity to the US in the early days of the pandemic, Becerra said he was happy to see the US responding to support India in its time of need.

Appreciating recent US donation of urgently needed resources to battle the ongoing surge of cases, Vardhan said that these supplies include oxygen tanks, oxygen generators, therapeutics, vaccine manufacturing components, PPE, and rapid diagnostic tests, among other critical items.

The US government has announced $100 million in assistance to India to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In about a week, as many as six planeloads of COVID-19 assistance have landed in India.

Besides, public health experts from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, US, will continue to work hand-in-hand to support the efforts of their Indian counterparts.

During the call, Becerra also noted the recent announcement of US support for a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and future World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

Vardhan discussed the need to work closely together in the international arena, including strengthening the WTO and building upon lessons learned from the COVID-19 response.

In recognising Vardhan as the chair of the WHO Executive Board, Becerra emphasised that the US looks forward to working closely with India on the WHO reform.

Vardhan congratulated Becerra on assuming charge as the Secretary of Health and Human Services and thanked his gesture to initiate communication to establish formal contact to work closely on bilateral cooperation and address global challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the health ministry statement read.

"Both nations have developed a strong collaboration in the area of public health, which extends to build and enhance the co-operation and support in the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is highly appreciable to learn that the statements of solidarity between us are quickly manifesting as practical forms of support to enhance healthcare support and fight the pandemic. We are thankful and highly appreciate the support of the US for medical supply," Vardhan was quoted as saying in the statement.

Secretary Becerra recounted the crisis in his country brought about by COVID-19 and expressed his empathy towards the suffering of Indians. He also assured of US President Joe Biden's unwavering commitment to engage, collaborate, and fight COVID-19 together, the statement added.

Edited by Suman Singh