COVID-19: UK government has not done enough to help India, say doctors

A body of 6,000 doctors in the UK of Indian origin has written to Boris Johnson requesting further medical equipment be sent to India as a "matter of urgency".  

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) is now taking matters into its own hands as it believes the UK government’s delivery of aid was "minuscule and a drop in the ocean".

It told the prime minister that "Britain should do more", as India faces a lack of medical supplies to keep coronavirus patients alive.

On Sunday, the UK sent more than 600 pieces of vital medical equipment which included ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices and the prime minister vowed he would do whatever he can to support India.

However, Dr. JS Bamrah from BAPIO told Sky News: "The UK governments have made what is a very slow start and their commitment is clearly not going to be enough.

"We need them to help more, urgently.

"There are nightingale hospitals empty and vacated now, there will be a lot of equipment lying around not being used.

"It would not be beyond the wit and strength of the government to partner with India and fly out nightingale hospitals."

With India struggling and minimal resources being sent, the group of doctors is assisting medics in India by offering triage of patients over video calls, as well as assessing COVID patient’s CT scans and offering advice to intensive care doctors.

They’re also in conversation with the NHS to acquire and ship any surplus medical equipment to India.

Dr Bamrah added: "There are a whole lot of Indian doctors here with strong ties to India, we feel helpless because we can’t go there to help on wards, in ICUs on the streets.

"The situation is dire so it’s why we are working with the Indian High Commission to fill the areas of most need. We have a moral obligation to help out where we can, that’s what we’re trained to do."

With India now on the travel red list and flights to the country out of the UK limited, many relatives in Britain are worried and scared about the situation.

Dr Samir Shah’s father was admitted into an intensive care unit in Mumbai on Monday evening.

Speaking to Sky News from his home in Manchester, he said how worried he was about his father’s health.

He said: "It’s scary, it’s frightening, it’s grim what is happening there. I am helpless as a son and as a doctor.

"I’m sad, I’m disappointed that I can’t be there with him at this time. I’m in contact, but he’s dropping in and out of consciousness. It’s one of the hardest difficulties I’ve had to deal with."

Mahendra Shah is 76 years old and as of Monday afternoon was on precious oxygen and medication to treat the virus, but his health deteriorated and he was moved to the intensive care unit where supplies are diminishing.

Dr Shah said: "It’s heartbreaking and that’s an understatement. I know he is strong, but I just wish I was there with him. This is a humanitarian crisis, the government here may have done a bit, but really it is a drop in the ocean and the ocean is vast.

"I’m seriously worried about lack of supplies, it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. It’s like a war out there. There is fear amongst all my family in India."

Charities and the Indian community in the UK are also now rallying together to provide support to India.

On Monday the organisation Khalsa Aid, which has workers on the ground assisting people in the country, appealed to British citizens to provide oxygen concentrators which it says it will ship to India as soon as possible.

Ravi Singh, cihef executive, told Sky News: "We’ve seen in our own country how we’ve struggled.

"If it wasn’t for the wonderful NHS we would have struggled even more.

"There is no such system in India.

"They’ve been overwhelmed, the system has collapsed and it’s an absolute nightmare.

"We need to join hands. This isn’t about politics it’s about saving lives."

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