The exercise to deliver the HCQ and paracetamol tablets has been a complicated exercise since most countries, including India, do not permit flight operations

India has dialled up its medical diplomacy, sending loads of medicines to 100-plus countries over the last two weeks to help them fight the COVID-19 pandemic. A top government official told Hindustan Times that India is supplying nearly 85 million hydroxychloroquine tablets and close to 500 million paracetamol tablets to the 108 countries.

This is apart from the 1,000 tons of paracetamol granules that have been sent to make tablets.

“As we speak, a total of 4,000 plus consignments to 60 countries are being cleared for dispatch,” the government official cited above said. In all, the medicine supplies will cover 108 countries.

Many of the supplies have been made through special Indian Air Force flights, foreign evacuation charters and even diplomatic cargo.

It is a huge exercise, and complicated too given that most countries, including India, have shut flight operations.

As one example, officials speak about how Indian HCQ tablets to be delivered to the Dominican Republic, which is the current President of the UNSC, were placed as diplomatic cargo on a US evacuation flight to Atlanta, Georgia. This diplomatic cargo will then be flown from New York to the island in the Caribbean region in a Dominican charter later on Thursday.

The HCQ tablets sent as gifts to Mauritius and Seychelles were loaded on special Indian Air Force planes on Wednesday for delivery. For reaching the medicines to Afghanistan, efforts are being made to send the medicine by a special charter.

According to South Block officials, 5 million HCQ tablets and a large quantity of paracetamol has been either supplied or in the process of being supplied to 31 countries as grant assistance to combat COVID-19.

“The emphasis has been on clearing consignments to those friendly countries first which are badly affected by the virus. We will also be clearing requests from some other countries who have sought help in this hour of need. This will be done in a day or two,” said a senior official.

Basically, India has decided to supply all the drugs that were lying in special economic zones or 100 percent export oriented units after ensuring that there was an adequate buffer stock for domestic requirements in a worst-case scenario.

“Broadly, almost everything that was ready and lying at the airports/ports that cannot be used domestically as on April 14 has been cleared for exports,” said a Ministry of External Affairs official.

India has already supplied 80 million HCQ tablets to 24 countries through commercial contracts including US, UK, Russia, France, Spain and Netherlands. It has also supplied large quantities of paracetamol to 52 countries including Italy, Sweden and Singapore. In some cases, both HCQ and paracetamol tablets were supplied.