Friend in deed: How Saudi oxygen will save lives in COVID-19-ravaged India

Oxygen tanks are loaded in Saudi Arabia's eastern port city of Dammam onto a ship bound for Gujarat, India on April 24, 2021. (Indian Embassy photo via Twitter)
1 / 6
Oxygen tanks are loaded in Saudi Arabia's eastern port city of Dammam onto a ship bound for Gujarat, India on April 24, 2021. (Indian Embassy photo via Twitter)
A Covid-19 coronavirus patient leaves a hospital in New Delhi on April 24, 2021. (AFP)
2 / 6
A Covid-19 coronavirus patient leaves a hospital in New Delhi on April 24, 2021. (AFP)
India has taken delivery of about 80 metric tons of oxygen from Saudi Arabia to help alleviate its acute shortage of the emergency gas amid a deadly COVID-19 wave. (Supplied)
3 / 6
India has taken delivery of about 80 metric tons of oxygen from Saudi Arabia to help alleviate its acute shortage of the emergency gas amid a deadly COVID-19 wave. (Supplied)
A patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara inside an auto rickshaw in Ghaziabad. (AFP)
4 / 6
A patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, inside an auto rickshaw in Ghaziabad. (AFP)
COVID-19 coronavirus patients breathe with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara in Ghaziabad. (AFP)
5 / 6
COVID-19 coronavirus patients breathe with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara in Ghaziabad. (AFP)
Oxygen tanks are loaded in Saudi Arabia's eastern port city of Dammam onto a ship bound for Gujarat, India on April 24, 2021. (Indian Embassy photo via Twitter)
6 / 6
Short Url
Updated 30 April 2021

Friend in deed: How Saudi oxygen will save lives in COVID-19-ravaged India

A Covid-19 coronavirus patient leaves a hospital in New Delhi on April 24, 2021. (AFP)
  • Oxygen deliveries from the Kingdom to ease shortage of life-saving gas amid a deadly surge in cases
  • Cooperation during the pandemic has further strengthened ties between India and Saudi Arabia

NEW DELHI: Reeling from a devastating wave of coronavirus cases, India has taken delivery of about 80 metric tons of oxygen from Saudi Arabia to help alleviate a critical shortage of the emergency gas.

Images of the first consignment of cryogenic tanks and medical-grade oxygen cylinders destined for an Indian port prompted an outpouring of gratitude and relief on Indian social media.

The acute shortage of oxygen in India underlines the severity of the coronavirus crisis ravaging the world’s second most populous country. Fragile supply chains have failed to keep pace with surging demand, piling pressure on health systems, crematoriums and the federal government.

India has recorded almost 18.7 million COVID-19 cases — second only to the US — and more than 207,000 fatalities to date. Under the circumstances, the Saudi oxygen shipment materialized not a moment too soon.

Trade and cultural links between ancient India and the Arab region go back almost 5,000 years. Formal diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Riyadh were established soon after India gained independence in 1947. Today Saudi Arabia is one of the largest suppliers of oil to India as well as one of its top trading partners.

The bilateral relationship reached new heights in February 2019 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid a visit to New Delhi. The two sides signed investment deals worth $100 billion in the fields of energy, refining, petrochemical, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing. A proposed Strategic Partnership Council came to fruition in October that year.

Since last year, the pandemic has converted relations between India and Saudi Arabia into a classic example of “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” As the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India (SII), a Pune-based biotechnology and pharmaceuticals company, has so far supplied Saudi Arabia with 3 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot.

But now India itself has appealed to friendly nations to make up for the massive shortfall of medical supplies. They have responded by sending liquid oxygen, oxygen concentrators and cryogenic oxygen tanks, diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment. Additionally, the US has “identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccine.”

As of this week, Gujarat alone was recording at least 100 deaths and about 15,000 new COVID-19 cases every day. The situation in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state is now so precarious that hospitals are forced to turn patients away, unable to offer beds or sufficient oxygen.

To alleviate the pressure on hospitals, Gujarat’s mosques have established their own COVID-19 wards, fitted out with oxygen tanks donated by regional allies to help people in acute respiratory distress. The Darul Uloom Mosque in the city of Vadodara has capacity for more than 1,000 beds, but is having to limit its patient intake owing to the state’s severe shortage of oxygen.

“We are running just 142 beds, out of which only 120 beds have oxygen fittings,” Ashfaq Malek Tandalja, a member of Darul Uloom’s managing committee, told Arab News. “In the first wave of COVID-19, we were running a 1,000-bed facility, but this time we are not doing so because of the lack of oxygen in the state.”

Tandalja added: “With oxygen coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries, we are able to think of expanding the facilities. And in the coming days we would like to do that, because people need more beds.

“Saudi Arabia has responded to the crisis India is facing and is helping us with oxygen. This will save many lives and families.”




India has taken delivery of about 80 metric tons of oxygen from Saudi Arabia to help alleviate its acute shortage of the emergency gas amid a deadly COVID-19 wave. (Supplied)

On Wednesday, Indian authorities reported a daily record of more than 360,000 new COVID-19 cases and around 3,050 deaths nationwide — although many believe the true figure is much higher.

The rate of new cases has accelerated in recent weeks as the densely populated nation of 1.3 billion people grapples with a far more aggressive second wave. The capital New Delhi, which went into strict lockdown a week ago, is among the worst affected, with an infection rate of roughly 36 percent.

Last week, at least 50 critically ill patients died in two of the city’s hospitals due to oxygen shortages. Mahendra Chouhan lost his wife on Sunday as he searched for oxygen or a hospital bed. “I ran from pillar to post to find oxygen. But by the time I got it, my wife had collapsed,” he told Arab News.

“Saudi Arabia’s oxygen will save so many lives. The government needs support from foreign countries to survive the crisis.”




Family members and relatives carry the body of a victim who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus amid burning pyres of other victims at a cremation ground in New Delhi. (AFP)

Shortages are largely the result of logistical challenges and bureaucratic mismanagement, with supplies failing to reach areas most in need.

Although India is a significant oxygen producer, turning out roughly 7,000 metric tons a day, hospitals typically rely on trucks that travel long distances to replenish their stocks.

To make matters worse, another virus variation has emerged on the subcontinent with a so-called double mutation, raising doubts about the future effectiveness of India’s already sluggish vaccine rollout.

Even before the pandemic hit, India’s healthcare infrastructure was in no shape to meet demands of this magnitude. Now, the public health system has all but collapsed in many states.

“In Gujarat, the situation is really scary and there is chaos all around,” Dr. Mona Desai, president of Ahmedabad Medical Association, told Arab News. “Hospital beds and oxygen are in short supply, leading to the loss of many precious lives.”




Patients breath with the help of oxygen masks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on April 27, 2021. (AFP)

Hospitals in Ahmedabad, home to 5.5 million people, are buckling under a record surge of coronavirus cases. “Besides the lack of beds, the city is also gasping for oxygen,” Desai said.

“Saudi Arabia’s gesture will help in saving many lives. This support is coming at a time when India is reeling under a severe oxygen crisis.”

On April 25, Saudi Arabia sent the first shipment of four ISO cryogenic tanks from Dammam to the port of Mundra in Gujarat. The Saudi supply was sent in cooperation with Indian conglomerate Adani Group and British chemical multinational Linde.




Oxygen tanks are loaded in Saudi Arabia's eastern port city of Dammam onto a ship bound for Gujarat, India on April 24, 2021. (Indian Embassy photo via Twitter)

“The Embassy of India is proud to partner with Adani Group and Linde in shipping the much-needed 80 metric tons of liquid oxygen to India,” New Delhi’s diplomatic mission to Riyadh said via Twitter on Sunday, thanking the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health “for all its help, support and cooperation.”

Just two days earlier, India had launched its “oxygen maitri” or “oxygen friendship” campaign in an appeal to neighbors and allies to help it procure more of the lifesaving gas.

On April 23, India’s home ministry said it was in talks to buy high-capacity oxygen-carrying tanks. The following day, the Indian Air Force brought four cryogenic tanks from Singapore.




A Covid-19 coronavirus patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, under a tent installed along a roadside in Ghaziabad on April 28, 2021. (AFP)

“At a time when the whole country is facing acute oxygen shortages, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people, Saudi help is laudable,” Dr. Harijit Singh Bhatti, president of the New Delhi-based Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, told Arab News.

“What is important now is to save as many lives as possible. The domestic supply of oxygen is being augmented. But before that, foreign support is crucial.”

There is little doubt that when the worst is over, India-Saudi relations will emerge as a friendship tested by time and circumstance.

Anil Wadhwa, a former diplomat and a senior fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation, a public policy think tank in New Delhi, said Riyadh’s gesture during this time of crisis “will create a more favorable impression of the Kingdom” in India.

“The Saudi government’s help is symbolic because it represents the readiness of the Gulf and Arab world to come to India’s aid in times of need.”

-----------------------

Twitter: @destinydefier


Saudi Arabia calls on Muslims to sight Eid crescent on Tuesday

Saudi Arabia calls on Muslims to sight Eid crescent on Tuesday
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudi Arabia calls on Muslims to sight Eid crescent on Tuesday

Saudi Arabia calls on Muslims to sight Eid crescent on Tuesday
  • Supreme Court calls on all Muslims across the Kingdom to sight the crescent of the month of Shawwal

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has called on all Muslims across the Kingdom to sight the crescent of the month of Shawwal on Tuesday evening. 

The court said if the moon is seen with the eye on Tuesday May 11, which corresponds to Ramadan 29, 1442 H, the committee will announce the end of fasting month and the start of Eid Al Fitr.

The Supreme Court called on whoever sights the crescent by naked eyes or through binoculars to report to the nearest court and register their testimony, or report to authorities in their area.


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait
Updated 09 May 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait
  • The coalition said it is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threat to protect civilians and civilian objects
  • The coalition confirmed that the Houthis’ attempt to target civilians was a serious violation of international law

DUBAI: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
The coalition said it is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threat to protect civilians and civilian objects.

The coalition also confirmed that the Houthis’ attempt to target civilians was a serious violation of international law.

The Iran-backed militia has been intensifying attacks against Saudi Arabia, targeting key oil facilities and civilians amid international and Arab condemnation in support of the Kingdom’s security.

 


KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan
The findings revealed a 39 percent increase in mobile phone use and 52 percent of people spent their time on other entertainment activities. (Social media)
Updated 09 May 2021

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan
  • Saudis reduced visits to relatives by 46 percent and to friends by 54 percent, the center found

JEDDAH: A new poll has revealed that Saudis reduced their participation in social events by more than 70 percent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The results were part of a recent telephone study by the Saudi Center for Opinion Polling that surveyed a random sample of 1,190 people aged 18 years and older during Ramadan.
Saudis also reduced visits to relatives by 46 percent and to friends by 54 percent, the center found. During Ramadan, 42 percent of people maintained regular levels physical exercise, while 39 percent of respondents said they watched less television.
The findings also revealed a 39 percent increase in mobile phone use and that 52 percent of people spent their time on other entertainment activities.
Speaking to Arab News, Arwa Meer, an admin supervisor at a Jeddah hospital, said that she had reduced her social activities due to the nature of her work environment.
“Last Ramadan, I was working for the whole period of the COVID-19 curfews and lockdowns. Even if I had time, I wouldn’t see anyone because I was in constant contact with COVID-19 cases. That was something that made me refrain from seeing anyone,” Meer told Arab News.
However, this year has also created a similar situation, she said. “There’s potential exposure to COVID-19 cases as I continue my work at the hospital. Some of my colleagues got infected, so that made me refrain from social gatherings and visits even more. Even with my family at home, I try to avoid physical contact with them as much as possible, just as a precaution not to possibly infect anyone if I was a carrier.”
When asked if her visits to friends had also changed, the supervisor said the pandemic forced her to become “less social.”
She added: “The pandemic has made us all a little less social actually. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen my friends. I see them maybe once a month. This Ramadan, I didn’t see my friends at all, not for iftar or sahoor.”

HIGHLIGHT

The results were part of a recent telephone study by the Saudi Center for Opinion Polling that surveyed a random sample of 1,190 people aged 18 years and older during Ramadan.

Sharing the same sentiment, 28-year-old Talal Al-Shammari from Jeddah said that it is “only natural” that family visits will decrease during the current circumstances.
“Nobody wants to be put in such a situation to be infected in the first place. Everyone is afraid for their family members over themselves,” he told Arab News. “No one would ever want to harm their relatives or friends, especially the elderly, those with a weaker immune system or children.”
The survey found that online shopping was also unaffected during Ramadan when compared with previous levels.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of people surveyed reported that higher levels of advertising during Ramadan did not affect their buying decisions. “Another surprising result is that the majority (79 percent) were reluctant to eat in restaurants during Ramadan,” the survey said.
Other results revealed that total hours of sleep during Ramadan increased for just 25 percent of respondents, while the majority of those surveyed said that they did not “significantly change their lifestyles” during Ramadan.
The survey also found that 58 percent of people did not notice a change in their moods or emotions during the period.
Work discipline remained the same for 81 percent of people, as did working hours for 79 percent of respondents.
The Saudi Center for Opinion Polling is a not-for-profit organization authorized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, and the Ministry of Commerce.


Saudi authorities intensify preparations at Two Holy Mosques ahead of 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudi authorities intensify preparations at Two Holy Mosques ahead of 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
  • The authority intensified COVID-19 preventive measures inside the Two Holy Mosques

JEDDAH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia intensified preparations to receive pilgrims and worshipers for the 27th and 29th nights of the Muslim month of Ramadan at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Hani bin Hosni Haider, spokesman for the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said the authority intensified coronavirus preventive measures, particularly purification and sterilization operations, and technical and transportation operations, including providing vehicles inside the Two Holy Mosques.
Haidar said staff are working around the clock and have also intensified regulating entry and exit mechanisms and services provided to pilgrims and worshipers under the supervision of head of the presidency, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais.
He said that the presidency coordinated with relevant authorities to organize the movement of pilgrims and worshippers inside the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and its squares, to ensure their safety and to fulfill the precautionary health requirements.
Haidar said the “presidency was keen to intensify its efforts to achieve the aspirations of the Kingdom’s leadership and highlight the great efforts the state is making toward the Two Holy Mosques.”


Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 
  • A total of 41 people have been arrested in connection with the drug smuggling attempts

RIYADH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested several people in connection with the seizure of a large quantity of illegal drugs in the Jazan and Najran regions.
Lt. Col. Mesfer bin Ghanam Al-Quraini, spokesman for the Border Guards, said that the seizures came as part of the continuous monitoring of criminal drug activities targeting the Kingdom.
Al-Quraini added that 802 kilograms of hashish was seized in Jazan and Najran, and 25 individuals suspected to be involved in the smuggling operation were arrested, including 14 Yemeni nationals, four Ethiopians, three Saudis, two Somalis and two Pakistanis.
He said that among several other security operations conducted by the Border Guards, 25.4 tons of khat were seized in the Jazan region and 16 people were arrested, all of whom are Yemeni nationals.
The spokesman said: “The Border Guards will continue to carry out their tasks with great determination to confront attempts to smuggle narcotic substances across all borders, and arrest those involved.”