Tanzanian mission’s defence adviser dies of Covid-19 in Delhi


The defence advisor at the high commission of Tanzania has died of Covid-19, the first death within the diplomatic community in New Delhi amid the devastating second wave of Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections sweeping across the country.

Col Moses Beatus Mlula was taken to a leading private hospital of New Delhi in a serious condition on April 27 but it declined to admit him, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity. The Tanzanian mission reached out to the Indian Army, which rushed Mlula to the Base Hospital at Delhi Cantonment, currently a Covid-19 facility catering to military personnel, veterans and their dependents.

Mlula died at the Base Hospital in the afternoon of April 28, the people said. The Tanzanian mission acknowledged his death in a message circulated among foreign missions, UN agencies and international organisations. The mission also opened an online condolence book for messages that will be open till May 3.

The people cited above said there were reports of Indian staff and junior diplomats testing positive at several foreign missions, including those of the Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Palestine, the US and Afghanistan. Some of those who tested positive were self-isolating at home while a handful had been admitted to hospitals.

There was no official word from Indian officials on these developments.

The foreign missions too are tight-lipped on issues such as whether the treatment of those who have tested positive has been affected by the shortage of oxygen and hospital beds for Covid-19 cases, especially after a spat between the government and the opposition Congress over Youth Congress volunteers delivering oxygen cylinders to the Philippines embassy and the New Zealand high commission.

After the Youth Congress posted videos of its members delivering cylinders to both missions, external affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted that the opposition party was indulging in “cheap publicity”. He contended there were no Covid-19 cases at the Philippines embassy and the delivery of oxygen cylinders amounted to “unsolicited supply”.

The New Zealand mission deleted a tweet that tagged the Youth Congress and asked for help in obtaining oxygen cylinders. The mission apologised in a subsequent tweet and said it had been “trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently”.

When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked in a television interview whether it was proper for the mission to approach an opposition party, she said the high commission should have used “normal channels and protocols” but acknowledged that oxygen was needed for an Indian staff member who was “very unwell”.

“There are channels that they can and should be going through for such matters, but I should recognise that we do have a local staff member who’s within the compound, who has been very unwell. That was the basis on which that call was made,” Ardern said.

The people cited above acknowledged that some missions had faced difficulties in accessing both medicines and hospital beds but pointed out that this should be seen in the overall context of healthcare facilities in Delhi and the National Capital Region being swamped by the sudden surge in Covid-19 infections.

Some missions have come together to create informal WhatsApp groups to exchange the latest information on the availability of ICU beds and medicines such as the antiviral medication Remdesivir, the people said.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Sunday that the ministry’s chief of protocol and heads of regional divisions are in touch with all foreign missions to respond to their medical demands related to Covid-19. “This includes facilitating their hospital treatment,” he had said.


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