EU says will 'respond rapidly' to assist Covid-hit India

 A health worker carries a patient suffering from Covid-19 outside the casualty ward at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in New Delhi, on April 24, 2021.
A health worker carries a patient suffering from Covid-19 outside the casualty ward at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in New Delhi, on April 24, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU is preparing rapid assistance for India as it copes with a growing Covid-19 crisis that has seen infections and deaths hit record highs, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday (April 25).

"Alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India. We are ready to support," Ms von der Leyen said on Twitter.

"The EU is pooling resources to respond rapidly to India's request for assistance via the EU civil protection mechanism." The mechanism allows European Union countries to coordinate their aid in cases of emergency.

EU commissioner for humanitarian aid Janez Lenarcic said oxygen and medicine contributions were already being coordinated from member states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier Sunday her government was preparing emergency aid for India.

There were no immediate details on what would be offered by Germany, the EU's biggest economy, but Der Spiegel weekly has reported that the country's armed forces had received a request to help organise oxygen supplies.

India's healthcare system has struggled to cope with the huge surge in infections, with reports of severe oxygen and medicine shortages and patients' families pleading for help on social media.

The vast nation of 1.3 billion people recorded 349,691 fresh cases and 2,767 deaths in the last 24 hours - the highest since the start of the pandemic.