THE coronavirus pandemic appears to have triggered a global battle for badly-needed medicine and medical supplies with the latest skirmish, between US and India, ending today (7.4.2020) after the latter partly lifted a ban on export of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which has not yet been proven to effectively treat the deadly coronavirus infection.
US President Donald Trump had threatened to retaliate if India did not export the drug to US despite his personal request over a phone call to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IndiaToday reported.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said today, “We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. We would therefore discourage any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicise the matter.”
Aside from hydroxychloroquine, India will also be supplying paracetamol to neighbouring countries that depend on it for these medicines.
Meanwhile BBC reported today that Trump had called Modi on Sunday, a day after the country banned the export of hydroxychloroquine, which it manufactures in large quantities.
The US President’s comments, made at the White House press briefing on Monday, haven’t gone down well with many in India, with critics pointing out that there was no need for him to be so abrasive when Modi has already agreed to help.
The two leaders are on friendly terms and Trump had made a high-profile trip to India recently.
India is the world’s largest producer of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and exported $51 million worth of the drug in FY19. This was a minuscule portion of the country’s $19-billion pharma exports, Business-Standard.com reported
This fight for a medicine, which Trump calls a “game-changer” in the fight against Covid-19, comes soon after the Bangkok Post reported a denial by US embassy in Thailand of any knowledge of a shipment of face masks headed for Germany that the German authorities accused it of diverting from a Bangkok airport.
“The United States Government did not take any action to divert any 3M supplies that were destined to Germany nor did we have any knowledge of such a shipment,” Jillian Bonnardeaux, the spokeswoman for the US embassy in Bangkok, told Reuters.
“We remain concerned about pervasive attempts to divide international efforts through unsourced, unattributed disinformation campaigns.”
Thai authorities were not reachable on Monday as the country was observing a public holiday.
On Friday, Germany’s interior minister, Andreas Geisel, claimed the US had confiscated 200,000 masks ordered from a US producer while they were in Bangkok, The Independent reported.
“We view this as an act of modern piracy,” he said. “You cannot act in such a way among transatlantic partners. Such wild west methods can’t dominate, even in a time of global crisis.”
The US is struggling to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, amid a shortage of medical masks, but on Saturday, President Donald Trump denied the claims and said that “there has been no act of piracy.”
Some health researchers have used hydroxychloroquine, along with a combination of a common antibiotic azithromycin, as a potential treatment for Covid-19. Photo: Business-Standard.com