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Pilot raises funds to buy and ship 30 oxygen concentrators to India

By Edd Dracott, PA

A pilot moved by the distressing scenes caused by Covid-19 in India has raised money to buy 30 oxygen concentrators, which he hopes to fly to the stricken country himself.

Chris Hall, who is a captain for Virgin Atlantic, grew up in Delhi and has been horrified by the latest surge of coronavirus in India, where new cases are rising by record amounts and there is a shortage of both hospital beds and medical oxygen.

“Every now and again something rattles your cage just a little bit,” Mr Hall, 59, told the PA news agency.

“In the story of this pandemic what we’re seeing in India is probably the thing we all feared, all governments feared – a wave, a surge that no health system could cope with, and ordinary people at the very moment they get it (Covid) unable to get any help from their health system.”

Mr Hall, from Teddington in south-west London, has performed and organised a number of challenges to raise money for various causes in the past – an amount he says totals around £1 million.

But he is taking a more direct approach, having set up a crowdfunding page and put out a call for donations, leading to more than £19,500 being raised in a week.

“I have sought to just raise as much money as possible in as short a time as possible and it’s escalated,” he told PA.

Mr Hall was given the idea to raise money for oxygen concentrators when he got a message from a friend asking if he could source one for him because he was concerned about the lack of oxygen supply.

Oxygen concentrators take in air and filter out the nitrogen, enabling patients whose lungs are affected by disease to maintain the level of oxygen flow around their body.

They can be suitable for treating patients with mild or moderate symptoms, although those with more severe symptoms will need a medical oxygen supply.

After sourcing machines for his friend, Mr Hall decided he would raise money for more.

He initially set a target of £2,000, but that quickly ballooned to nearly 10 times that amount – enough to buy at least 30 high-spec £600 concentrators, the first 20 of which have already been ordered.

Mr Hall had planned to carry the concentrators over on his own flight, but now with the reduced number of flights going into the country he does not know if that will be possible.

Either way, Virgin has agreed to ship them as cargo free of charge.

“Virgin have been fantastic,” said Mr Hall, who has worked for the company for 30 years.

“In general they’re a wonderful airline for embracing a wider sense of why we should be doing things, and a guy like me has always felt that if it was a good cause the organisation and leadership would swing behind me, and indeed they have.”

Mr Hall said it is important for the world to act now.

“This is very, very real for the people of Delhi,” he said.

“I think it’s deeply distressing in this time to see a developed economy run out of oxygen – how does that even happen?

“I guess it’s being distressed and frustrated at the same time by it all, and seeing the kind of inevitability of it if you don’t manage it properly.

“Having grown up there, it’s about friendship.”

– To donate go to gofundme.com/f/emergency-relief-for-india

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