Colombo, January 23
Sri Lanka will receive COVID-19 vaccines free from India next week, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Saturday, a day after the country approved emergency use of Oxford AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine.
“We do not have to wait longer than the 27th of this month to receive a quantity of free vaccines from India,” the President said, addressing the presidential mobile service at Walallawita south of here this morning.
Front-line health workers, the Army and the police and the most vulnerable elderly will be given the vaccine as a priority, the President said, amid warnings from doctors that front-line health workers should be quickly inoculated to prevent the medical system from collapsing.
“We will also buy COVID-19 vaccines from Russia and China,” sad the President.
The President’s comments came as the health authorities conducted three dry runs of the vaccination process.
India this week announced that it would send COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Sri Lanka and seven other countries — Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles, Afghanistan and Mauritius.
Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives have already received India’s COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance in sync with its “Neighbourhood First” policy.
While the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, the Covaxin doses are being produced by Bharat Biotech.
India on Friday welcomed Sri Lanka’s emergency use approval of Covishield vaccine which is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
“Welcome emergency use approval of COVISHIELD vaccines by Government of Sri Lanka. This clears the way for scheduling delivery of the vaccine from #India to #lka,” India’s High Commission here said in a tweet.
Sri Lanka witnessed a fresh outbreak of the disease in October when two clusters — one centered on a garment factory and the other on the main fish market — emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.
Sri Lanka has reported 52,964 cases with 278 fatalities.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, who faced criticism for endorsing a local concoction supposedly a cure for the virus promoted by an indigenous medicine practitioner, has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Health Minister became the fifth member of Parliament to test positive for COVID-19. PTI