China's state-run Sichuan Airlines flight (file photo) | Flickr

Stop surging prices of Covid supplies, restore frequency of cargo flights: India tells China

The decision by China's Sichuan Airlines to suspend 11 cargo flights for 15 days from 26 April amplified cargo flight disruptions and it is yet to restore services to India.

by · ThePrint · Join

Beijing: India has asked China to help stop the sharp increase in prices of essential medical supplies being procured from Chinese manufacturers by private Indian traders to deal with the COVID-19 surge in the country and restore the normal frequency of cargo flight services to maintain a steady supply chain.

Soaring prices of medical supplies like oxygen concentrators and disruption of cargo flights to India are slowing arrivals of medical goods, India’s Consul General to Hong Kong Priyanka Chauhan said.

What I would like to say is that our expectation at this point is that the supply chain should remain open and product prices should remain stable, Chauhan said in an interview with the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

Even if there is a little bit of supply-demand pressure, there has to be some stability and predictability to product prices,” she told the Hong Kong-based newspaper.

And there has to be a sense of governmental level support and efforts. I don’t have the information as to how much influence the Chinese government can have in this matter but if they can, then it would be welcome, she said.

Her comments came in the backdrop of efforts by private Indian traders to source much-needed medical supplies, especially oxygen concentrators to meet the shortages in hospitals.

The cargo flight disruptions were amplified by the decision by Sichuan Airlines to suspend all its 11 cargo flights for 15 days from April 26, citing coronavirus the situation in India.

Though the state-run airline said it is reviewing its plans to restore the flights, it is yet to do so.

Freight Forwarders in Shanghai told PTI here that Sichuan Airlines has announced plans to restore three of its freight flights from Chongqing and Xian to Delhi from May 17.

Currently, the air shipments are being carried by other airlines including India’s Spice Jet and Blue Dart, which runs empty flights from India to bring the medical supplies from China.

When asked whether there should be more government-level cooperation between China and India during the pandemic for more of a guarantee on price stability and supply chain, Chauhan told the Post that India would be open to discussing the issue to see if a better mechanism could be agreed.

About the travel bans due to the COVID-19 situation in India, Chauhan said she appreciated the need for travel bans based on public health concerns, but added that India was asking China to facilitate cargo flights so that supplies could be delivered.

She said a phone conversation between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar in April had helped with the clearance and approval of cargo flights, but they had not returned to the same frequency as before the second wave.

She suggested that higher-level assurances to officials for flight clearance could help.

Unreasonable control should be avoided, and transport linkages should be maintained, she said.

About the international response to rush aid to India, Chauhan said more than 50 countries have supported India by sending supplies.

India is currently grappling with the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.

India added 3,62,727 new coronavirus infections in a day taking the COVID-19 tally of cases to 2,37,03,665, while the death toll rose to 2,58,317 with 4,120 daily fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday.


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