May 6, 2021

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UK doesn’t have excess vaccine doses it can send to India, health official says

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Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 28.
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 28. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The UK will send three mobile “oxygen factories” that produce enough oxygen per minute to support 50 people at a time, as it battles a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the British government announced on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said the three oxygen generation units – each the size of a shipping container — would be sent from surplus stock from Northern Ireland and would produce 500 liters of oxygen per minute each, which is enough for 50 people to use at a time.

“At the moment, the Indian government are asking for support with oxygen production. That’s why the UK [is sending this] in addition to the equipment we have already allocated,” Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly said in a pooled interview on Wednesday.

The decision follows the UK’s recent action to support India with 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators sent from surplus stock, the first batch of which arrived in India on Tuesday, the FCO statement said.

“International collaboration is more essential than ever, and this additional UK support package will help meet India’s current needs, particularly for more oxygen,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking at a Downing street press conference on Wednesday said the scenes in India “pains each one of us” because the “bonds between the countries are so strong.”

“Everyone across this whole United Kingdom stands side by side with the people of India In these troubled times. In this battle against coronavirus we are all on the same side,” Hancock said.

“This fight is a global fight. When other nations face their hour of need just as we faced our hour of need here at home, we will be there.”

Hancock also responded to a reporter question on whether excess vaccine doses would be sent to India, saying they had no excess to send, adding that the Serum Institute of India (SII) were able to produce sufficient vaccine supply.

The SII “are making and producing more doses of vaccine than any other single organization. And obviously that means that they can provide vaccine to people in India at cost,” Hancock said.

“We’re leaning in, both on what we can provide and the material goods we can provide now like ventilators that we thankfully don’t need any more here,” he added.

“India can produce its own vaccine, based on British technology, that is… the biggest contribution that we can make which effectively comes from British science,” Hancock said.

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