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India's military assists in fight against second Covid-19 wave affecting country

India’s military has been widely employed to assist the country in its fight against the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic by providing doctors, medical staff, and transporting essential supplies such oxygen, medicines, and equipment from overseas.

To enhance the military’s capabilities in this endeavour India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) granted senior officers emergency financial powers in late April to procure medical stores and create and expand existing hospital services.

The MoD also involved the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the creation of additional hospital facilities across the country and state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) units in the production of ventilators, protective N95 masks, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

While the Indian Army (IA) has provided serving and recently retired medical personnel and opened up many of its hospitals across the country to civilians, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN) have deployed aircraft and warships to transport medical goods, particularly oxygen, from overseas to deal with severe shortages.

According to the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB), the IAF has operated 84 international sorties, air-lifting 81 cryogenic oxygen storage containers from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

The IAF has also operated 534 medical relief flights criss-crossing India and earmarked three transport aircraft in New Delhi for any urgent requirement, stated the PIB on 10 May.

Under Operation ‘Samudra Setu II’ (‘Ocean Bridge II’) the IN has so far deployed nine warships to ferry cryogenic oxygen containers from several countries, including Bahrain, Doha, Kuwait, Qatar, and Singapore.

As of 10 May, the number of Covid-19 infections registered in India stood at 23 million, while the number of documented deaths had risen to 250,000.

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