18:26 GMT17 May 2021
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    The coronavirus pandemic has reached crisis point in India, with sick patients lining up outside overloaded hospitals and round-the-clock cremation of the dead without ceremony on public funeral pyre grounds.

    The UK has begun flying some 600 pieces of vital medical equipment to India to help in its desperate struggle with the COVID-19 virus.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Sunday afternoon that a first shipment was on its way to New Delhi.

    The UK stands "side by side" with its former colony in the "shared fight against COVID-19", Johnson wrote.
    "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," the PM said.

    "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 pandemic."

    Home Secretary Dominic Raab said the flight one the first of several, repeating the government mantra "no-one is safe until we are all safe".

    Nine air freight containers containing 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators will be sent this week.

    The pandemic has reached crisis proportions in India, with patients made to wait outside overloaded hospitals and mass cremations of the dead. The Indian health ministry said almost 350,000 new coronavirus cases were recorded on Sunday, raising the total for the pandemic to almost 17 million. Some 192,000 are known to have died so far.

    "The heart-breaking scenes in India show once again how awful this terrible disease is," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. "This first delivery of life saving equipment will provide much needed assistance and we stand ready to do more."

    Singapore has already sent desperately-needed supplies of medical oxygen.

    The UK has a stockpile of medical ventilators, thanks to its rapid coronavirus vaccination programme and orders worth £569 million placed last spring and summer.

    Those contracts have sparked controversy after exceptions were made to tendering and tax rules for suppliers.

    Many ventilators went unused as the National Health Service does not have enough nurses trained to operate them.

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    Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Singapore, pandemic, Boris Johnson, coronavirus, COVID-19
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