Britain to send medical equipment to India following surge in Covid cases

India has seen a huge increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with hospitals now struggling to cope with demand.

Britain is to send more than 600 pieces of medical equipment to India following a huge surge in coronavirus cases in the country, the Government has confirmed.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the assistance package would include ventilators and oxygen concentrators from surplus stocks.

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It said the first of nine planeloads of kit would arrive in New Delhi early on Tuesday.

A priest (L) who helps performing last rites, runs to avoid the heat from the multiple burning funeral pyres of patients who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus disease at a crematorium on April 24, 2021 in New Delhi, India.

In a statement, Boris Johnson said: "We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner during what is a deeply concerning time in the fight against Covid-19.

"Vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent the tragic loss of life from this terrible virus.

"We will continue to work closely with the Indian government during this difficult time and I'm determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against (this) pandemic."

India has seen a steep increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with the government and hospitals unprepared for a fresh surge after the easing of lockdown.

The discovery of a new ‘double mutant’ Covid-19 variant in the country has been blamed as one of the main factors for the rising cases, with the strain causing alarm because it has two spike proteins instead of one.

The variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains and there are concerns it could render vaccines less effective, although this has not yet been confirmed.

The surge in cases has also been linked to lockdown restrictions being eased too quickly.

Several people have now died as a result of an oxygen shortage in Indian hospitals, with some families turning to social media pleading for oxygen supplies.

Additional reporting by PA.