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The Union message to the people of India

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The Union expresses its solidarity with the people of India who are suffering immensely during this current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts go out to those who are affected: the patients with COVID-19 and their families, who are suffering illness and loss, and the health care workers, who are working in extremely stressful conditions.

We applaud those who are mobilising resources to assist India in this difficult time: governments, the private sector and civil society organisations. We acknowledge the efforts of the Government of India and urge it to allocate more financial resources to this urgent health crisis. The need for medical supplies, including manufacturing facilities for liquified oxygen (to supply hospitals), ventilators and related respiratory support, and PPE is particularly critical and urgent.

Beyond this immediate need to provide medical care for those who are affected, the other urgent need is to bring the current wave to an end and to prevent further waves. Urgent public health measures, focusing on social distancing and preventing social mixing, particularly in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, are the key. This requires government mandates and enforcement, community support, and social assistance to enable the essentials of life (nutrition and shelter) to be maintained. Unfortunately, recognition and acceptance of the crucial importance of these measures in preventing outbreaks and in controlling those that exist has been lacking in the public and political spheres. We call on community and political leaders everywhere to recognise their crucial role in garnering support for these actions, which will save many lives.

The vaccine roll-out is also critical to protecting people from the catastrophic consequences of COVID-19. The benefits outweigh the risks for virtually everyone and all efforts should be made to acquire and deploy quality-assured doses of the approved vaccines as widely and quickly as possible. While we recognise the importance of intellectual property rights in encouraging discovery and innovation of drugs and vaccines, we strongly support the campaign to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights over the approved vaccines for COVID-19. We applaud the decision of the US government to support this initiative in the context of a global health crisis that requires extraordinary measures. Other steps that are required to ensure rapid vaccine roll-out include funding for scaled-up production in all regions of the world, establishment of rigorous quality control procedures and development of models of care that enable many people, starting with the most vulnerable, to be rapidly and safely vaccinated.

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that requires a global response. The Union calls upon governments and agents to act together and support India to resolve this emergency. We must all take collective responsibility and ensure that we support all countries to address this pandemic and issue.

The Union is proposing to work, with partners, to support community-based care for patients with COVID-19, as well as tuberculosis, which remains a serious threat to health and life in India. The Union strives to end suffering due to tuberculosis and lung diseases, old and new, by advancing better prevention and care. We seek to achieve this by the generation, dissemination and implementation of knowledge into policy and practice. We aim to ensure that no-one is left behind, people are treated equally and we have a focus on vulnerable and marginalised populations and communities. We stand in solidarity with the people of India in this, their hour of need.