India’s virus tragedy; an open letter to Ministers – Layla Moran

THIS is an open letter that Layla Moran, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson, has sent, on behalf of her party’s MPs, to the Government about the Covid crisis in India.

Should countries like Britain be doing more to assist India as Covid cases spiral out of control and trigger a humanitarian crisis?

Dear Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Health Secretary,

We are writing to express our deep concern with the situation in India.

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The world is watching in horror as we see the reports of new cases rising, hospitals being overwhelmed and the lack of lifesaving equipment. On Tuesday, India recorded 320,000 new infections – that’s 17.6 million cases in total. The death toll now stands at 197,500.

Layla Moran is a Lib Dem MP and the party’s foreign affairs and international development spokesperson.

While we welcome the news that the UK Government has announced that over 600 pieces of medical equipment will be sent to India, with 200 pieces of equipment including ventilators and oxygen concentrators having already arrived, we must be proactive in our global response to coronavirus if we are ever going to put a stop to this pandemic.

This will only be a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed. In his written statement last week, the Foreign Secretary (Dominic Raab) said £1.3bn of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding has been allocated to “Covid and global health”.

Can you tell us, as a matter of urgency, how much of this funding has been allocated to India, and what plans the Government has to use ODA to assist them now, in their time of greatest need? How many more ventilators and oxygen concentrators will ODA provide for developing countries in the next year?

We recognise the Government’s early efforts to support COVAX, the global vaccine network, but we reiterate the calls we made to you in February. The UK must now take a leading position in rolling out vaccines worldwide.

Should countries like Britain be doing more to assist India as Covid cases spiral out of control and trigger a humanitarian crisis?

The UK has secured at least 340m doses of coronavirus vaccines for a population of 66m, vaccinated over 33m people with their first dose and 12m with their second. Some 95 per cent of those in the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) priority groups have been vaccinated.

Yet the UK Government still does not directly contribute vaccines to COVAX. Other countries, including Norway, 
have already started their parallel rollouts.

This needs to change urgently. Scenes in India remind us that none of us are safe until we are all safe. Moreover, 
there is growing evidence that cuts to 
the ODA budget this year will have 
dire consequences for international projects, collaborations and partnerships that are vital in our efforts to defeat the virus, including the sequencing of variants.

We don’t need to remind you that the situation in India, and elsewhere, threatens to breed new variants of Covid-19 that could undo so much of what we have achieved here in the UK, and threaten your plans to further ease restrictions.

Should countries like Britain be doing more to assist India as Covid cases spiral out of control and trigger a humanitarian crisis?

The UK holds the G7 presidency. Now is the time to lead, not do the bare minimum and hide behind written statements, so we further call on the UK Government to take proactive measures to show leadership on the world stage in fighting coronavirus by:

Increasing the UK contribution to COVAX and to share doses with COVAX in parallel with the national vaccine rollout;

Sharing UK vaccine manufacturers’ knowledge to increase vaccine manufacturing and the global supply of vaccines for future years;

Accelerating approval processes in regulatory bodies in a safe and deliberate way;

Tasking the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care to work with the World Health Organisation and other partners to invest in and help prepare their primary healthcare systems for Covid-19 vaccine distribution;

Working together with governments to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are free at the point of care without risk of financial hardship.

Provide detail on the country-specific allocation of the £1.3bn that has been allocated to Coronavirus and global health in the new Official Development Assistance budget;

Ensure there is dedicated support from the UK Government for British nationals in India.

We urge you to act now to help save lives in India and around the world. None of us is safe from coronavirus until we all are.

We look forward to your response.

Layla Moran MP.

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