A group of Scottish MPs say the UK Government must send urgent coronavirus aid to Nepal to help avoid a “disaster” which could be a “threat to the global recovery from Covid-19”.
In a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the group urges the government to send vital supplies such as oxygen tanks, ventilators and vaccines to the Himalayan country.
Nepal currently has the highest virus reproduction rate in the world, and the Nepalese government has put out an urgent plea for international help.
Currently the Delta variant of the virus, first detected in neighbouring India, is responsible for 97% of cases in Nepal, with some communities reporting a 90% test positivity rating.
Two million coronavirus vaccines have been allocated to Nepal via the World Health Organisation’s COVAX system, but these have been delayed.
In the letter to Mr Raab, the MPs say military experts and 130 ventilators from the UK have already been sent to Nepal, but say there is still a further 370 ventilators available and additional doses of the vaccine in stockpile that could be donated.
The UK Government needs to do the “morally right thing”, says Aberdeen MP
Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North, says it is important the UK Government helps long-standing allies such as Nepal when they are in crisis.
She said: “The UK and Nepal have been friends and allies for over 200 years and yet when they need us the most we are not doing what we need to help them.
“If we have spare vaccines, oxygen and ventilators we should send some to Nepal as their health system is overwhelmed.
“We have got ventilators in the UK sitting doing nothing, which we are unlikely to need in the near future, which we could send to countries like Nepal.
“Our NHS is working very, very well and because of the high percentage of vaccines it has reduced the number of people being hospitalised with the virus.
As part of a cross party group of MPs I have written to the Foreign Secretary to raise the UK’s appalling lack of support for COVID-stricken Nepal. pic.twitter.com/Pg6o6B7swo
— Kirsty Blackman (@KirstySNP) June 8, 2021
“But Nepal is right at the other end with massive increases in patients going into intensive care with no machines or the people to look after them.”
She added: “Nepal has asked for help directly and COVAX is not doing enough to help them.
“They are in crisis and we need to step up, particularly where we have stuff in warehouses gathering dust that could be flown over.
“The Conservative government is trying to make Britain great again, but they are not doing anything to help or improve our international standing and do the morally right thing.
“I hope Dominic Raab will take action and move in the right direction, but I am not putting money on it.”
Emergency assistance is “needed now”, says Dundee MP
Another Scottish MP who signed the letter is Chris Law, MP for Dundee West and the SNP’s international development spokesman at Westminster.
He said: “The spread of Covid continues to escalate in some of the poorest communities around the world.
“Whilst we have thankfully seen numbers begin to fall in India, the transmission has increased dramatically across neighbouring Nepal.
“Urgent support is needed if health services and communities across Nepal are to weather this outbreak.
“That is why I have joined MPs from across political parties to call on the UK Government to work with partners to deliver the emergency assistance that is needed now.”
And Neale Hanvey, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, added: “The situation in Nepal is really worrying.
“This is one of the remotest and poorest countries on the planet suffering an outbreak of Covid-19 that is completely out of control.
“We have a moral obligation to help countries that lack the infrastructure to control the virus, but it’s also in our self-interest to do so.
“If the virus gets out of control anywhere, that increases the risk of dangerous mutations finding their way to our shores.
“As I have said before, this is a global pandemic that requires a global solution.
“That’s why I supported The People’s Vaccine campaign that seeks to deliver a vaccine to everyone, everywhere, free of charge.
“And it’s why I am now calling on the UK Government to deliver emergency support to Nepal.”
Foreign Office says UK stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Nepal
A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it is committed to supporting developing countries across the world get through the coronavirus pandemic.
They said: “The UK stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Nepal during this pandemic.
“We were one of the first countries to send health experts and life-saving medical equipment to Nepal, including 260 ventilators and 2,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to help the country’s fight against Covid-19.
“The UK is a leading donor to COVAX, the international initiative to procure and distribute vaccines equitably.
“We have committed £548 million to the scheme that will provide more than a billion vaccines to developing countries, including Nepal, this year.”