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China to pump in more vaccines as Sri Lanka widens coverage

The move takes the total vaccines gifted by China to Sri Lanka to 2.7 million doses.

COLOMBO: China will gift Sri Lanka an additional 1.6 million doses of Sinopharm, the country’s Embassy here has said, while the island nation expands it Covid-19 vaccine coverage, with the aim of welcoming tourists and urgently boosting revenue-inflow.

The move takes the total vaccines gifted by China to Sri Lanka to 2.7 million doses. Additionally, Sri Lanka has procured 6 million from China so far. Another 2 million procured doses are scheduled to arrive during the third week of July, while Colombo plans to purchase a further two million in the last week of July, a spokesman of the Chinese Embassy told The Hindu. By the end of the month, Sri Lanka would have purchased a total of 10 million Sinopharm vaccines.

Amid Sri Lanka’s persisting third wave of the pandemic — 1484 cases and 50 deaths reported on Thursday — President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed officials to expand vaccination coverage, his office said.

Sri Lanka also reopened the country for tourists, further easing restrictions on Friday for fully vaccinated travellers, except from India, and select African and South American countries, from where passengers are still barred entry into Sri Lanka. According to government sources, the island nation is counting on the possible revival of its tourism sector to face its severe economic crisis, of draining foreign reserves in the face of a daunting debt repayment schedule in the coming months.

Vaccine coverage

Beginning in January this year, Sri Lanka has been administering Covishield, Sinopharm, Sputnik and Pfizer vaccines, and a majority of those vaccinated has got Sinopharm jabs. Data published by the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health showed that, as of Thursday, more than 51 lakh people have obtained their first shot, with nearly 80 per cent of them receiving Sinopharm. Over 16 lakh people have received both doses, and over 70 % them took Sinopharm.

Meanwhile, with some 5 lakh people awaiting their second dose of AstraZeneca, Colombo has been trying to tap other sources, after India stopped exporting vaccines. Earlier this week, Japan said it would provide 1.45 million doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine Manufactured in Japan to Sri Lanka. On Friday, the country received 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States, through the ‘COVAX Facility’.

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