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US COVID-19 aid flights to begin arriving in India Thursday

US COVID-19 aid flights to begin arriving in India Thursday
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U.S. aid flights will begin arriving in India on Thursday, the White House said, detailing supplies from oxygen to tests to vaccine materials it will be sending to the hard-hit country. 

The White House said the aid is worth over $100 million and flights will continue arriving into next week. 

The assistance includes oxygen cylinders and 1,700 concentrators that obtain oxygen out of the air, amid a shortage of oxygen in the country amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases. 

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The U.S. is sending supplies to allow India to manufacture over 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as 15 million N95 masks, 1 million rapid tests, and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House said. 

The aid was first announced over the weekend, but the administration elaborated on the supplies in more detail on Wednesday. 

The White House also announced on Monday that it is working to donate up to 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines to other countries, but it will be weeks before they are ready to be shipped, given that the Food and Drug Administration is conducting safety checks on the doses. 

The increased assistance comes after pressure built on the Biden administration from members of Congress and health experts to do more for other countries, particularly India, which is especially hard-hit by the virus. 

The Biden administration had initially resisted sending vaccine doses abroad, saying they were first focused on vaccinating Americans, but the supply picture in the U.S. has markedly improved. 

“Reflecting the United States’ solidarity with India as it battles a new wave of COVID-19 cases, the United States is delivering supplies worth more than $100 million in the coming days to provide urgent relief to our partners in India,” the White House said Wednesday. 

India recorded over 360,000 new cases just on Tuesday as numbers continue to spike, according to figures from Our World in Data. Over 3,000 people died from the virus that day as well, as deaths also rise sharply.