China’s state-owned airline suspends cargo flights carrying COVID-19 medical supplies to India

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Despite Beijing’s reiteration of its readiness to assist India in dealing with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases, China’s state-run Sichuan Airlines has suspended all cargo flights to India for 15 days, causing major disruption to private traders’ efforts to procure much-needed oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies from the country.

“China has been closely monitoring the epidemic situation in India. We express our heartfelt condolences about India’s deteriorating situation ” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, addressed a media briefing here on Monday, answering several questions, including the suspension of cargo flights by Sichuan Airlines.

“We have stated that we are ready to assist India in fighting the virus as soon as possible. This is being discussed by two parties, “he stated.

He did not, however, confirm a tweet from the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka stating that China had begun supplying oxygen concentrators to India.

“Today, 800 oxygen concentrators were airlifted from # HongKong to # Delhi; 10,000 more will be delivered in a week. # China is in contact with # India regarding urgent needs “According to a tweet from the Chinese Embassy in Colombo.

When asked about his reaction to the tweet, Wang stated, “China is willing to provide India with the necessary support and assistance in its fight against the virus. If India makes specific demands, we will assist and support it to the best of our ability”..

Concerning Chinese manufacturers raising the prices of medical supplies sold in India, he stated that “I understand that India’s willingness to purchase medical supplies from China is a commercial activity. If India makes specific demands, China is ready to assist and support it to the best of its ability. ” In response to a question about why members of the Quadrilateral alliance (the United States, India, Australia, and Japan) aren’t rushing to help India, Wang said, “on this issue, countries should work together.”

“We must all work together to combat the virus. We hope that all countries will band together to defeat the virus, which is a common enemy of humanity, “he stated.

Wang has declined to comment on China’s state-run airline, Sichuan Airlines’, decision to suspend cargo flights to several Indian destinations, which was expected to seriously disrupt private traders’ efforts to procure oxygen concentrators, which are desperately needed in India.

In a letter to sales agents on Monday, Sichuan Chuanhang Logistics Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of Sichuan Airlines, stated that the airline has suspended cargo flights on six routes, including Xian to Delhi, due to frantic efforts by private traders on both sides to obtain oxygen concentrators from China.

According to the letter obtained by PTI, the company has decided to suspend flights for the next 15 days “in the face of sudden changes in the epidemic situation (in India), in order to reduce the number of imported cases.”

“Sichuan Airlines’ primary strategic route has always been to India. This suspension has also resulted in significant losses for our company. We apologize for the “unchanged situation,” the letter said, and asked for the “understanding of its sales agents.” ” It also stated that the situation will be reviewed in 15 days.

The suspension of cargo flights caught agents and freight forwarders off guard, as they were scrambling to obtain oxygen concentrators from China.

There have also been reports of Chinese manufacturers raising their prices by 35 to 40%. According to Siddharth Sinha of Sino Global Logistics, a Shanghai-based freight forwarding company, freight charges have increased by more than 20%.

He told PTI here that the decision by Sichuan Airlines to cancel flights has severely hampered efforts by private traders in both countries to secure quick supplies of oxygen concentrators to rush to India in light of the dire situation.

It is now very difficult to rush the supplies because they must be rerouted through Singapore and other countries via different airlines, which delays the much-needed supplies, he said.

The suspension of flights due to the coronavirus situation in India is surprising, he said, because there is no crew change in India and the aircraft is flown back by the same crew.

Other than diplomats, there are almost no Indians traveling to China from India, as China has suspended visas for Indians since November and flights remain prohibited.

With over 3,000 new coronavirus cases reported daily in the last few days, India is experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, and hospitals in several states are suffering from a lack of medical oxygen and beds.

Aside from shipping services, Chinese cargo flights have been operational throughout the pandemic, rushing supplies of lucrative mobile phone equipment as well as a variety of other Chinese exports to India.

Sinha claimed that Chinese suppliers had also resorted to the “inhuman” practice of jacking up prices to capitalize on the pandemic emergency.

The suspension of cargo flights also surprised Indian officials here, as it occurred in the midst of official statements offering India support and assistance.

Last week, another Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, stated that China is in contact with India to provide the necessary support and assistance.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in India has risen to 1,73,13,163, with more than 28 lakh active cases. According to official data, the death toll has risen to 1,95,123, with a total of 2,812 new fatalities.

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