In what is being called ‘vaccine diplomacy’ India has pledged to help seven of its neighbours in the fight against COVID-19. The gift, a part of India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, will see its indigenously developed Covishield vaccine distributed in the region.
In line with Prime Minister Modi’s statement that India sees international cooperation in the area of fight against the Covid-19 pandemic as its duty, the Indian government has played the role of the first responder in the region.
Bangladesh began its vaccine rollout drive on Wed 27 Jan, and Sri Lanka is set to receive its consignment of 500,000 doses of the vaccine, today Thursday 28 Jan.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked the Government of India for the gift of two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine while virtually inaugurating the mass vaccination drive in the country.
A nurse named Runu Veronica Costa was administered the first vaccine dose in Bangladesh at the Kurmitola General Hospital (KGH) in Dhaka, watched virtually by the Prime Minister. Hasina also watched four others take the jab, before 21 more were vaccinated.
Hasina said, “We have been able to procure the vaccine in time. Today is a historic day for Bangladesh, as many countries in the world are yet to start inoculating their populations. But we’ve done it despite having a dense population and limited economic power.”
The pandemic has already claimed more than 8,000 lives in Bangladesh. The nation has also bought 30 million doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India and the first batch of 5 million shots has arrived.
Bangladesh will also get 6.80 crore vaccines for 20 per cent of its population, which means 3.40 crore people, from the WHO Covax facility.
To Sri Lanka, India has extended a USD 400 million currency swap facility to ensure financial stability of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Modi government also gifted approximately 26 tonnes of essential lifesaving medicines and equipment to Sri Lanka.
India was the first to send such a consignment onboard two special Air India aircrafts. The government also facilitated the repatriation of several hundred Sri Lankan citizens from various Indian cities.
Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Myanmar have also received their Covishield doses from India. Contractual supplies are also being undertaken to Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Morocco and Myanmar besides Bangladesh.