Group of Eight statement on COVID-19 situation in India

The rapidly escalating number of COVID-19 infections in India and the suffering it is causing is both heartbreaking and distressing.

The Group of Eight (Go8) stands in solidarity with India as they manage the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts are with our Indian friends, students, staff, research partners, and their families.

The Go8 has a long history of friendship and partnership with India in study, research collaboration and student exchange programs. More than 10,000 students from India study at one of our universities – 80 percent of whom are studying at post graduate level. These students have stuck by Go8 universities since Australia’s borders closed in March 2020 and many have continued to study online from their homes in India.

Our eight member universities are adopting responsive and flexible study arrangements for their Indian students and are maintaining regular contact with all of their Indian partners. We know that their focus at this time must be with their families and friends who are being deeply impacted by the unfolding COVID-19 situation in India.

Go8 Chief Executive Ms Vicki Thomson affirmed, “The Group of Eight stands in solidarity with our Indian partners, staff, and students. Go8 universities have been working closely to provide study extensions, financial support, counselling, and messages of support.

“We know that many of our Indian students and staff are facing great hardship as a result of the unfolding situation in India and we stand ready to assist in any way possible. “At the same time, we acknowledge the hardship and trauma being faced by our Go8 colleagues and students around the globe whose lives are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have written to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator the Hon Marise Payne and Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Hon. Barry O’Farrell AO, to offer Go8 support during this time of crisis.”

Examples of Go8 assistance being provided to India:

  • Monash University. Financial hardship packages and counselling: Monash University manages a Research Academy in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) in Mumbai with approximately 200 joint PhD program students as well as staff who are being affected. The campus is currently in lockdown. Financial hardship packages and the extension of study timelines have already been made available to Academy students. Monash University is now investigating what further support may be needed. The University also provides access to mental health support and financial counselling services.
  • University of Queensland. Financial support, fee waivers, counselling: UQ manages an Academy of Research in India in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (‘UQIDAR’). They have approximately 50 joint PhD students as well as staff who are being affected, and their campus is in lockdown. UQIDAR students have been receiving strong financial support, including combinations of fee waivers and generous stipends. Student counselling services are also in place.
  • UNSW. COVID-19 treatment options: The Kirby Institute at UNSW is working on four COVID studies with three sites in India at Chennai, Jodhpur and Chandigarh. The Institute is working on two COVID-19 double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled clinical trials for both inpatients and outpatients to assess safety and efficacy of potential COVID-19 treatments. At Chennai, the Institute is running an observational study for people who have HIV and COVID-19 to better assess the clinical features and outcomes of people who are co-infected to better inform COVID-19 treatment options.
  • Sydney University. PPE support: In 2020, the School of Biomedical Engineering rapidly manufactured reusable face shields and emergency ventilators for NSW Health Infrastructure and is in preliminary discussions with the Indian and Australian Governments on sharing this expertise and equipment.
  • University of Melbourne. Medical Support:The FREO2 Project team are currently considering ways to scale-up their University of Melbourne-designed device called FREO2 LPOS, which enables Low Pressure Oxygen Storage (LPOS) to operate without electricity in remote areas where electricity is either intermittent or rare. As demand increases to meet the need for COVID, oxygen becomes scarce, especially in paediatric hospitals. By producing oxygen locally on demand, FREO2 will ensure that children with pneumonia are provided with life-saving treatment. Kröber medical is assisting FREO2 with technology development and has arranged to immediately send a shipment of portable oxygen generators to assist India.

“Go8 universities are committed to offering their expertise and ongoing financial and social support to our Indian students and colleagues during this most challenging of periods,” said Ms Thomson.

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