Antonov Airlines has enlisted its An-124 to transport critical medical equipment to India. The aircraft carried 70 tonnes worth of oxygen concentrators from Israel to New Delhi. This comes as more airlines add aid flights to India to deliver much-needed air.
Monday saw Antonov Airlines fly in its second-largest aircraft to New Delhi to deliver crucial aid. The An-124 was carrying 2,500 oxygen concentrations that were imported from Israel for emergency use in hospitals. Antonov partnered with its Indian sales agent Flywell Aviation and logistics firm Delhivery to further transport the concentrators across India.
The aircraft departed Tel Aviv in the morning and made a brief technical stop in Dubai for refueling. Soon after that, the An-124 landed safely in Delhi at night, carrying the critical cargo.
Notably, this isn’t the first time in recent memory that the huge An-124 has landed in Delhi. Just over two weeks ago, Volga-Dnepr used one of its An-124’s to fly 12 containers of liquid medical oxygen from China. This was also a part of efforts to boost the shortage of oxygen states across India are facing.
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Since April, India has been battling a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 that has blown past global records. Cases reached a peak of 414,000 in the first week of May, after weeks of sustained caseloads above 300,000. This sudden rise in cases meant that the already-creaky healthcare system quickly buckled under the weight of so many cases.
This led to an oxygen shortage across the country, prompting organizations and countries to fly in aid into India. The most common equipment has oxygen concentrators, which can be used to treat patients with low oxygen saturation.
However, critical patients require oxygen through pressurized cylinders. For this, countries have even been donating portable oxygen generation plants to temporarily boost supplies. This system was most recently sent by Germany as part of its humanitarian aid.
In addition to oxygen-related equipment, airlines have also been flying in ventilators, N-95 masks, PPE, medication like remdesivir, and much more. Some carriers have also been flying in this aid for free. Qatar Airways began doing this at the end of April, with Emirates joining in last week. These efforts will make it easier for smaller groups to ship aid to India in the future.
Fears of a new variant circulating have pushed governments around the world to ban travel from India. The US, UK, Germany, France, UAE, Qatar, Canada, Australia, and scores of others have restricted travel to a handful of passengers, if not banning flights altogether. With the second wave still growing, these restrictions are likely here to stay for at least a few more weeks before easing.
Meanwhile, Indian airlines have been reeling from the sharp drop in the domestic market. Once on its way to a full recovery, traffic is dropped below 30% of pre-pandemic levels once again. For now, carriers are focused on surviving this crisis and transporting essentials like vaccines and medical equipment.