Australia backs fundraising drive in response to India's health crisis

MELBOURNE, May 3 (Reuters) - Cricket Australia (CA) and the country's players union have thrown their weight behind a fundraising drive with charity UNICEF Australia to respond to India's COVID-19 health crisis.

Governing body CA is making an initial donation of A$50,000 ($38,600), matching a donation made by Australia vice-captain Pat Cummins last week.

"Australians and Indians share a special bond and, for many, our mutual love of cricket is central to that friendship," CA interim CEO Nick Hockley said in a statement on Monday.

"It has been distressing and saddening to learn of the suffering of so many of our Indian sisters and brothers during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and our hearts go out to everyone impacted."

UNICEF Australia's "India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal" is procuring and installing oxygen equipment in hospitals to treat seriously ill patients, providing testing equipment and "supporting acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out", the charity said.

A massive surge in COVID-19 cases has placed a huge strain on India's health system, with a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supplies, and morgues and crematoriums swamped.

India reported 392,488 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, pushing the total cases to 19.56 million. Deaths jumped by a record 3,689, taking the overall toll to 215,542. read more

Amid the crisis, the Indian Premier League cricket tournament has ploughed on despite fierce criticism on social media. The Indian cricket board has said the IPL will continue as scheduled with the final in Ahmedabad on May 30. read more

($1 = 1.2957 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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