Setting aside its February 1 order that prevented the export of personal protection equipment, India has decided to export two large consignments of medical clothing to China on an ad hoc basis, amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
An additional 6 such consignments are also in the process of being exported. Earlier, India had sent 40 boxes of protective medical gear in the 2nd Air India flight that evacuated stranded Indian citizens from Wuhan in Hubei.
China has been facing a shortage of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves ever since the country was hit by the outbreak of deadly novel coronavirus. The disease has claimed close to 900 lives till now. As such, medical workers had become vulnerable to infection.
Chinese importers placed orders to import protective clothing from India but the export was banned without citing a reason. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade notified on February 1 “Exports of all varieties of personal protection equipment including clothing and masks used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and/or any other respiratory masks or any other personal protective clothing (including coveralls and N95 masks)…is hereby prohibited with immediate effect till further orders.”
It was perhaps done to keep supplies intact in case the disease spread to India. In meetings chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, the Government decided to waive the ban on a “case by case basis.”
Keeping in mind the situation in Wuhan, the screening committee set up the Union Health Ministry paid heed to the requests of the Chinese importers. The transactions are to be done on a “commercial basis.” China has earlier publicly acknowledged the donation of epidemic prevention supplies made by 21 countries that also includes the likes of Pakistan. However, India was absent from the list.
Having said that, the Indian Embassy in Beijing has reached out to the Chinese government to offer assistance in containing the outbreak of the deadly pathogen. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also written to President Xi Jinping on Sunday to express solidarity with the Chinese people.