Wednesday 28 April 2021 / 2:02 PM Foreign Policy / Lisa Nandy

Labour calls on UK Government to ramp up support as India’s second wave becomes a ‘global emergency’

Labour has today called on the Government to step up efforts to support India as the domestic crisis becomes “a global emergency”.

Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy MP, used an Urgent Question to press the Government to provide additional support to the Indian authorities as they battle against rapidly rising infection rates. Citing her own Indian heritage, the Shadow Foreign Secretary said:

“For many of us in Britain, our ties to India are personal. My father came to this country from India, and being half Indian is an important part of who I am. Family ties between our countries are woven into the fabric of this nation. For the more than one million British Indians of different generations, this is a moment of fear and anxiety.”

Nandy called for UK expertise in genome sequencing and epidemiology to be made available to the Indian government, as well as surplus medical supplies including oxygen, ventilators and therapeutic medicines.

Lisa Nandy MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, in response to the Urgent Question on UK support to India, said:

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Mr Speaker, India is in a Covid crisis of unprecedented proportions.

We will all have seen the haunting footage of families pleading with doctors to treat their loved ones or queueing to cremate their dead.

In the last 24 hours, India has once more reported the world’s largest single day total, with more than 360,000 new confirmed cases and more than 3,000 deaths. There have been more than two million cases confirmed in the last week. India now makes up around 40 per cent of all the new cases in the world and experts believe this is almost certainly an underestimate. The peak of this crisis may yet be weeks away.

This is not just a heart-breaking crisis for India, it is global emergency that has consequences for all of us. We all face the same disease. We are all in this together. We are in a global race between vaccines and variants. No one is safe until we are all safe.

Mr Speaker, for many of us in Britain, our ties to India are personal. My father came to this country from India, and being half Indian is an important part of who I am. Family ties between our countries are woven into the fabric of this nation. For the more than one million British Indians of different generations, this is a moment of fear and anxiety. So many British Indians will have gone to work today in the NHS, to which they make such a remarkable contribution. They have helped to carry this country through this crisis. Today many will be worried for loved ones, family and friends in India.

Mr Speaker, just over a year ago, when the UK was facing one of our darkest moments in this pandemic, the Government of India sent 3,000,000 packets of paracetamol to the UK to meet our needs. That was an act of solidarity and support. It is now our turn to help the people of India in this hour of need.

I’m grateful to the Foreign Secretary for outlining what support the government has already provided.

I believe we can and must do more. I would be grateful if the Foreign Secretary could assure me the government is exploring all avenues available in the following areas:

  • First, Medical supplies: including oxygen, but also empty cannisters and cylinders, oxygen concentrators, ventilators; and surplus therapeutic medicine like remdesivir {rem DEZI veer];
  • Second, Genomic sequencing and epidemiology: utilising the UK’s world leading capacity in genomic sequence to track potential further mutations and variants in the Indian outbreak.
  • Third, Vaccines: we need a much greater effort to ensure we ramp up production and manufacturing capacity and overcome barriers to expanding supply, the greatest challenge we face.
  • Fourth, coordination – working with the government of India but also partners in North America and Europe to ensure our contributions have the greatest effect;

Mr Speaker, this is a time for solidarity and common cause with the people of India. I hope that today we can come together as a House and show that we are doing all we can.