One of the worst coronavirus hit country, the United Kingdom is all set to receive its first batch of three million paracetamol packets from India by Sunday.
Lord Tariq Ahmad, the Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), on Friday said the shipment is symbolic of the cooperative way both countries have been working through this unprecedented global crisis.
“The UK and India continue to work in close partnership to respond to the COVID-19 threat. My sincere thanks on behalf of the UK government to India for approving this important shipment,” Ahmad said.
India, during late last month, had issued an order reopening restricting the export of HCQ and paracetamol on “case-by-case” basis.
Health officials around the world have repeatedly said that there is no evidence that any drug, including paracetamol or HCQ, can cure the virus. But that hasn’t stopped global powers asking India for shipments of these important drugs.
The shipment’s arrival coincides with a series of charter flights laid on by the UK government to ferry thousands of British residents stranded in India’s coronavirus lockdown.
The Minister said that the two countries are working closely to put in place all the necessary requirements for British nationals wanting to return to the UK.
“The sheer logistics of this exercise involves every individual who has registered on to our central database being sent detailed information about booking their seat on the flights as well as local support for them to be able to get to the airports in the particular states, given the lockdown and curfews in place,” Ahmad said.
The travellers are set to be flown out from Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram via Kochi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai via Bengaluru over the coming week.
There are currently around 21,000 British residents in India, of which around 5,000 are set to be repatriated over this weekend and the next week with a total of 19 charter flights confirmed between the different cities of India back to London.
The FCO said, these travellers will be checked for any symptoms of the novel coronavirus before being allowed to board the charter flights and on landing in the UK, they will be subject to the same self-isolation and social distancing stipulations as other UK-based citizens.
Passengers are given a chance to book on to these flights at a standard 600-650 pound rate, with those facing financial difficulties given the opportunity to access an interest-free loan to be paid back over a six-month period.
The British High Commission in New Delhi has said that it is prioritising the more vulnerable within the nationals registered on its database wanting to return to the UK.
In reference to some calls for a possible passenger swap on these flights, for thousands of stranded Indians in the UK to be flown back to India by return journey, the UK government said that is a decision for the Indian authorities – given the ban on international flights in India. However, the FCO has said that the UK government will provide an extension to any expiring visas until the end of May and safeguard university accommodation for Indian students.
As of on Saturday afternoon, the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the UK was over 8,950, while the number of confirmed cases climbed to more than 70,270.