WASHINGTON—The Biden administration offered help to India as the country of more than 1.3 billion people reels from skyrocketing Covid-19 infections.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” the White House said Sunday in a statement.
The statement followed a call between White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, and the two will remain in close contact, the administration said.
India reported 349,691 new coronavirus cases Saturday, marking the fourth consecutive day the country has set a global record for a single-day rise in infections.
The current surge brought the total number of cases in India to 16.5 million, second only to the U.S. India’s official total death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 190,000 Saturday, but public-health experts believe fatalities could be significantly higher.
The country has faced a shortage of oxygen supply and hospital beds, with reports of many individuals dying on the pavement while waiting to be treated. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged citizens to exercise caution and get vaccinated. Mr. Modi, who in recent weeks participated in large political rallies and encouraged mass religious gatherings, has faced criticism for his handling of the virus.
The Biden administration has faced questions about why it was unwilling to send doses from its stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be approved in the U.S., to help the Indian government, which has struggled to vaccinate its population.
“ ‘It’s a terrible situation that’s going on in India and other low- and middle-income countries. And there is more we can do.’ ”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday called on the Biden administration to release millions of its AstraZeneca doses to India and other hard-hit countries such as Brazil.
“I think that’s going to be something that is up for active consideration,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Mr. Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
“It’s a terrible situation that’s going on in India and other low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Fauci said. “And there is more we can do. And I believe you will see shortly that all these things that we’re talking about are on the table, and we will be moving toward that.”
For days, the White House repeatedly declined to say whether it would lift a ban on the export of raw materials required by other countries to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines and whether the U.S. would share its vaccine supply.
Jeff Zients, Mr. Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, said Friday the U.S. was working closely with India on responding to the pandemic but reiterated the administration remained focused on vaccinating Americans first.
“We are committed to sharing vaccine supply and as our confidence around our supply increases, we will explore those options,” Mr. Zients said at a briefing. “This is a global pandemic and India demonstrates the risk of what can happen if we don’t get the pandemic under control everywhere.”
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