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Asia Minute: India Joins the Pursuit of Ventilators

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
A ventilator is displayed during a news conference, Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at the New York City Emergency Management Warehouse, where 400 ventilators have arrived and will be distributed.

State officials say Hawaii has 560 ventilators — machines that can help people breathe and that could play a key role if the state faces a surge in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Ventilators are a focus of concern in many cities in the United States and locations around the world — including India.

About a week and a half ago, India ordered 12,000 ventilators. That’s according to India Today, which did not make clear where those orders were placed — and estimates the total number of ventilators in India to be about 50,000.

So far, the country has roughly 2,000 reported cases of coronavirus, but testing has been slow and unwieldy in the country of 1.4 billion people.

On Wednesday, the Economic Times of India reported the country is talking with China about getting more ventilators, but it also quotes a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson as saying increasing production of the machines would be a challenge — and that there are competing orders.

Also on Wednesday, the Indian publication Business Today reported the government has plans to increase the domestic production of ventilators from a monthly average of less than 6,000 units to nearly ten times that amount.

Achieving a boost of that scale depends very much on the cooperation of the country’s major auto manufacturers.

On a different track, the BBC reports a team of engineers is focused on developing a new type of mechanical ventilator in India — one that can be manufactured quickly and at a fraction of the cost of conventional ventilators.

The BBC says testing of these new ventilators could begin as early as next week.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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