WASHINGTON: India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu held a virtual meeting with America's top public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci and discussed the current COVID-19 crisis in India, the efficacy of vaccines against the new strains and variants of the virus.
The meeting was part of the Ambassador's intensified and focused outreach to key stakeholders of healthcare and pandemic response in the US.
This was for the first time that a top Indian government official had a meeting with Fauci, who is the top advisor to President Joe Biden on the pandemic.
During the meeting, Fauci expressed his solidarity and support with India in this hour of crisis.
The meeting came a day after he termed the situation in India 'very desperate' and suggested that the government marshal all its resources, including the armed forces, to immediately build makeshift field hospitals, and urged other countries to help with not only materials but also personnel.
During his talks with Ambassador Sandhu, the virus strains and variants in India, and the efficacy of vaccines against these came up for discussion.
Fauci, who is also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, offered American assistance, including in research and development.
"Discussed virus variants, vaccines, response mechanisms and joint efforts incl in R & D. Thanked him for his insights and solidarity (sic)," Sandhu said in a tweet.
Fauci recalled the severe COVID-19 situation that the US has faced and the various policy responses adopted to tackle it.
Strengthening joint research in healthcare, particularly in the context of the pandemic, was also discussed.
Earlier in the day, America's Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas spoke with Sindhu and reiterated the Biden administration's full support in India's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Deeply appreciate the strong solidarity and offer of support of Department of Homeland Security," the Indian envoy said on Twitter after the phone call.
Two Indian-American congressmen Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi issued another plea for more US aid to India.
"It might not be on the front page anymore but make no mistake: the crisis in India has not ended. Many have stepped up to send help, but nothing can match the resources of our government. We need to mobilise our resources to quell the surge in India and prevent spikes elsewhere," Khanna said.
India is struggling with an unprecedented second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days.
According to Indian health ministry data on Tuesday, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases crossed the 2-crore mark with 3,57,229 infections being reported in a day, while the death toll increased to 2,22,408 with 3,449 new fatalities.
The total tally of COVID-19 cases in the country has climbed to 2,02,82,833, it said.