Colombo: Indian naval ship Shakti carrying 100 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen reached Sri Lanka on Sunday to help the island nation combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country’s ports minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena was at the port here to receive the cargo and hailed India’s assistance to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

The deployment of the Indian naval vessel for the delivery of oxygen was in response to a personal request for assistance by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for an urgent supply of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO), the Indian High Commission here said.

Camaraderie and coordination between Navies and various other stakeholders in India and Sri Lanka were on display as Sri Lankan Naval Vessel Shakthi with 40 tonnes of LMO on board also commenced its journey from Chennai to Colombo around the same time as INS Shakti.

It was a rare instance wherein two Shakti vessels commenced their journey from two different ports in India to the same destination almost at the same time for a common purpose, it said.

India’s assistance to Sri Lanka during the pandemic has been varied and need-based in nature. Close to 26 tonnes of essential medical supplies were gifted in April-May 2020. Currency swap of USD 400 million was provided in July 2020.

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The first consignment of vaccines, which was donated by India in January 2021, enabled Sri Lanka to roll out their vaccination programme ahead of the schedule, the Indian High Commission said.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a rapid rise in infections.

The death toll exceeded 7,000 with nearly 200 fatalities, the health authorities said on Sunday.

There has been a 30 per cent increase in the demand of oxygen to handle the rapid rise in the number of fresh patients, according to officials.

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