As hospitals across the country struggle with oxygen shortage, airlines and the Indian Air Force planes airlifted oxygen concentrators from Singapore and Hong Kong flying them to India on a war-footing.
A Boeing 737 operated by SpiceJet airlifted 800 oxygen concentrators from Hong Kong to Delhi on Saturday, the Hindustan Times said quoting airline officials aware of the matter. Air India is also scheduled to bring oxygen concentrators from San Francisco and Chicago to Delhi.
Police meanwhile have also made arrangements at the Delhi airport to ensure smooth and uninterrupted delivery of the COVID-related consignments to their destination.
Avani Singh, CEO of SpiceHealth, said the aircraft landed at the Indira Gandhi International airport with the consignment of oxygen concentrators via Kolkata around 7pm on Saturday.
Airlines to Fly Over 10,000 Units
A SpiceJet spokesperson said the airline is gearing up to bring as many as 10,000 oxygen concentrators this month from across the globe.
An Air India official said that their aircraft is expected to bring in oxygen concentrators from the USA to Delhi this week.
An official from the Delhi airport said the customs department has also been told to expedite customs clearance for these incoming consignments.
“All COVID-related parcels will be subject to speedy clearance on high priority by the custom, be it drugs, oxygen concentrators or any other medical equipment,” said the officer said requesting not to be named.
“The oxygen concentrators will reach Delhi via Kolkata, where the aircraft landed at around 7 pm (on Monday),” SpiceXpress, the cargo arm of SpiceJet, said in a statement.
Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director, SpiceJet, said the airline, along with SpiceHealth, is “looking at bringing more than 10,000 oxygen concentrators in the coming days from across the globe”.
SpiceHealth, a healthcare company launched by the promoters of airline SpiceJet, has conducted more than 20 lakh RT-PCR tests in India till date.
The first set of four containers reached Panagarh later on April 24 evening. After getting refilled, they were further transported to different parts of the country.
“One C-17 of Indian Air Force got airborne at 2 a.m. on April 24 from Hindan Air Base for Changi International Airport, Singapore. The aircraft arrived in Singapore at 7.45 am,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) said.
“After loading 4 containers of cryogenic oxygen tanks, it left from Singapore and returned to Panagarh air base. These containers will then be offloaded by this evening,” the IAF said on April 24.
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has hit India the hardest, leaving the nation gasping for life-saving oxygen. A major challenge for India is not just the production of oxygen but also to store and transport it to various states — Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, others, worst affected by the crisis. This is where the airlines have stepped in.
Airlines have been flying vaccines for months now. In a recent statement, Indigo said shipments were moved from Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune to 16 locations across the country including, Vijayawada, Guwahati, Patna, Odisha, Raipur, Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram, Indore, Imphal, Agartala, Chandigarh and Udaipur via 21 IndiGo airline flights.
Vistara’s Offer for Doctors, Nurses
ON Sunday, Tata Group-backed Vistara joined the national effort to cope against the surge in fresh COVID-19 cases in the nation by offering to fly doctors and nurses representing the Government organisations across its domestic network free of cost, media reports said.
In an official letter to Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary at the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, the airline said that it wants to help government organisations/hospitals in immediate need of air logistics.
The airline said that it welcomes requests from accredited organisations representing the central and state governments/Union Territories. It added, “We will evaluate these to extend as much support as possible, based on the availability of cargo space.”
The airline also said, “We are also happy to fly doctors and nurses representing government organisations, free of cost, across our domestic network, and also fly them back on the conclusion of their service.”
It added that due to the limited availability of seats, the airline will accommodate the medical professionals on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) responded to the letter with a Tweet commending the generous offer. In reference to the airline’s offer, MoCA said: “Let’s fight this pandemic together!”