China will donate three lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Sri Lanka, adding to its vaccine diplomacy in South Asia, as India brought its domestically manufactured coronavirus vaccines to several countries on the subcontinent as well as around the world.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked India Thursday for its generosity after receiving five lakh doses of Covishield vaccine given by New Delhi as part of the Neighborhood First policy.
“China will donate three lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses to Sri Lanka to jointly fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” the state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing a statement from the Chinese embassy in Colombo.
China made the decision following a recent request from the Lankan government.
The China National Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. (Sinopharm) produced piles are expected to be handed over to the Lankan side in mid-February.
A number of countries in the subcontinent, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, where Beijing is making significant investments, surprised China by choosing Indian vaccines.
So far, India has sent shipments of coronavirus vaccines as part of grants to Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Myanmar and Mauritius.
India is one of the world‘s largest drug manufacturers, and more and more countries have already turned to India for the coronavirus vaccines.
It also makes commercial deliveries of the cans to a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, and Morocco. At the request of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, India has also brought two million doses of Covishield vaccine to Brazil.
Meanwhile, Lalith Weeratunga, senior adviser to Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, told journalists in Colombo on Wednesday that the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) was testing the Sinopharm vaccine. Once approved by them, the vaccine can be used in an emergency. The Xinhua report said.
Separately, China has offered to step up cooperation in the Maldives to control the pandemic.
On January 26th, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui hosted the 7th round of diplomatic consultations between China and the Maldives with Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Khaleel via video link.
Luo Zhaohui said China and the Maldives provided mutual support, effectively contained the virus that was spreading in their countries, and actively promoted economic recovery.
Both sides must make continuous efforts to advance their bilateral relations, a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.