Latest on the Covid-19 vaccine and India’s worsening crisis

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The UK will help India with “whatever we can, whatever they ask for,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday, just days after the country’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK had no excess vaccine doses to donate.

Raab, who appeared both on Sky News and the BBC on Sunday morning, said the UK was “doing everything that our Indian friends need in their hour of need.”

Raab’s assurances contradict comments made on Wednesday by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said the UK had no excess vaccine doses it could send to the beleaguered former British colony. The UK is currently vaccinating people age 40 and over. Government data shows 65% of all adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, India has fully vaccinated only 2% of its population, with 9% receiving one dose so far.

Raab noted he had not been contacted about providing additional vaccine doses. “I haven’t had a request, I can tell you, on that specifically,” he said, listing the steps the UK has made:

We’ve given them oxygen concentrators. We’ve given them ventilators. We’re going to be sending out another package of 1,000 ventilators very shortly. We’ve also looked at these oxygen generators, like mini-factories. That’s the thing they need right now.

Raab also said he is in regular contact with counterpart, Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and that they are due to meet on Monday.  

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“The Indian relation is very important to us, and obviously we want to cooperate very closely together. Right throughout this crisis we’ve said we need to keep supply chains, particularly critical supply chains, open, and we ought to resolve these kind of issues through collaboration, and that is certainly what we’re doing with the Indians.”

The reassurances from Raab come as the UK continues cutting foreign aid funding.

UNICEF said Saturday it was “deeply concerned” by the UK government’s decision to reduce its core funding to the organization by 60%, saying the cuts “will have serious consequences for children.”

Last week, the United Nations Population Fund slammed the UK for a similar decision to cut 85% of the aid it had pledged to the UN’s family planning program, describing it as “devastating for women and girls and their families across the world.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government had to “economize” on international aid due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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