The Serbian wing of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on March 29 tweeted that India has sent 90 tonnes of medical protective equipment to the country’s capital Belgrade.

In a tweet, the organisation said, “The 2nd cargo Boeing 747 with 90t of medical protective equipment landed from India to Belgrade today. The transportation of valuable supplies purchased by @SerbianGov has been fully funded by the #EU while @UNDPSerbia organized the flight & ensured the fastest possible delivery.”

The news has triggered debates on social media as healthcare workers in India looking after Coronavirus patients have been facing a shortage of Personal Protective Equipments (PPE).

However, the Centre has denied any knowledge of the matter.

Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Luv Agrawal, during a press conference on Tuesday, said, “I am not aware of this. I will check and revert with details.”

It is learnt, according to a report in India Today, that the Government has claimed that it has not exported anything from the ‘prohibited list’. However, items on the ‘restricted list’ can be sent in a case to case basis depending on the government policies and prior commitments.

According to the commerce ministry’s amendment in export policy, dated March 9, 2020, masks, ventilators, the textile raw material for masks and coveralls, fall in the ‘prohibited’ category of items and cannot be exported.

Meanwhile, the Cochin Customs had on March 28 tweeted that they had cleared a consignment of 35 lakhs pairs of sterile latex surgical gloves to Serbia to support the global war against COVID-19 coronavirus.

The export of medical protective equipment to Serbia comes as doctors from West Bengal have complained that there is no supply of Personal Protective Equipment kits (PPE) for them to treat Coronavirus patients.

Doctors at North Bengal Medical College, Siliguri have claimed that they have been provided with raincoats, sunglasses and masks made of bedsheets instead of PPEs, laboratory glasses and surgical N95 masks to look after positive cases of coronavirus.

India is also looking at procuring ventilators and PPE kits from abroad, including from China and South Korea. A Singapore-based online platform has been identified which can supply 10 lakh PPE kits and an order has been placed through the MEA to procure them. Ten lakh masks would be part of the PPE kits being sourced from Singapore.

On March 20, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) banned export of surgical and disposable masks, all ventilators and textile raw material used for making masks with immediate effect in view of the growing number of cases of COVID-19 in India.

However, it clarified that items including gloves, ophthalmic instruments and appliances, surgical blades, gas masks with chemical absorbent for filtration against poisonous vapour and smoke, and biopsy punch can be freely exported.