COVID-19: Hundreds of oxygen concentrators donated to UK-based aid group to help with India crisis

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Hundreds of oxygen concentrators have been donated to a UK-based humanitarian organisation which will be used to help India's COVID crisis.

India is currently the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with total cases passing 18 million and hospitals and morgues overwhelmed.

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The country reported 379,257 new COVID infections and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday - the highest number of fatalities in a single day in the world's second most populous nation.

At least 200 boxes of oxygen concentrators have been collected by Slough-based Khalsa Aid following an appeal.

They will be taken on board a Virgin Atlantic plane to New Delhi on Saturday.

The flight will be piloted by senior first officer Jas Singh, who is also a volunteer for Khalsa Aid and managed to secure space on the aircraft free of charge.

Speaking to Sky News in the warehouse where the concentrators currently are being stored, he said: "I will be flying all the units out which is a real honour and a privilege.

"It's been such a rollercoaster the last few days. It's been amazing, absolutely amazing."

Khalsa Aid chief executive Ravi Singh said people have been making desperate phone calls to his organisation saying their sick relatives needed air and it was a "real tragedy".

He said: "The messages continue to come through the social media inboxes, emails, office phone calls, mobile phone calls - desperate calls for help.

"People saying 'grandma's ill, grandfather's ill', people sobbing on the phone with their relatives right in front of them and they cant breathe.

"And we feel helpless, there's not much available machinery-wise in India at the moment so it is a real tragedy unfolding."

Chris Hall, a training and operating captain at Virgin Atlantic, separately set up fundraising efforts within the airline to secure further oxygen supplies, and more than £11,000 was raised in two days.

Meanwhile, the UK government is sending more vital oxygen equipment to India, with ministers describing the spiralling coronavirus crisis there as "harrowing".

The Foreign Office said three oxygen generation units the size of shipping containers will be sent from surplus stocks in Northern Ireland to help the country tackle the virus.

Each unit is capable of producing 500 litres of oxygen per minute, enough for 50 people to use at a time, it added.

It follows the UK sending 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators to the country, with the first shipment arriving in Delhi on Tuesday.

Also the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together a number of UK organisations, has extended its coronavirus appeal to include India.

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Organisations including the Indian Red Cross, ActionAid, Oxfam India and Save the Children, will help support the country's health system by providing PPE, disinfection kits, medical supplies and ambulances, and setting up isolation facilities.