Colombo, Jan 28 (PTI) Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday thanked India for its generosity after he received 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine donated by the country under the 'Neighbourhood First' policy.
India last week announced that it will 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.
President Rajapaksa was at the Colombo international airport to receive the consignment of free Indian COVID-19 vaccines which arrived on a special Air India flight.
'Received 500,000 #COVIDー19 vaccines provided by #peopleofindia ...Thank you! PM Shri @narendramodi & #peopleofindia for the generosity shown towards #PeopleofSriLanka at this time in need,' Rajapaksa tweeted.
The consignment was packed in 42 boxes.
Rajapaksa was joined at the airport by the Indian envoy in Colombo Gopal Baglay.
'The arrival of 500,000 doses of COVISHIELD vaccines happens on blessed Poya Day, which marks the 1st visit of The Buddha to Lanka. High Commissioner offered prayers at the sacred Gangaramaya Temple for the health and well being of the people of Lanka on auspicious Duruthu Poya Day,' the Indian High Commission here tweeted.
The consignment came after the country approved emergency use of Oxford AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine.
The vaccination programme is to be launched in the country on Friday at six hospitals around the capital Colombo, health officials said.
A total of 250,000 people, mostly health frontline workers, members of the security forces and police and the vulnerable aged, will get the vaccine on a priority basis.
The government said the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation would be this week ordering 3 million doses of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine from India’s Serum Institute.
Sri Lanka has recorded more than 60,000 coronavirus cases so far with 288 deaths.
India is one of the world's biggest drug-makers and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring the coronavirus vaccines.
The gift from India is in line with India’s continued support to Sri Lanka in fighting the COVID pandemic. Four consignments of medical supplies weighing around 25 tonnes were donated by India, which also organised online experience-sharing programmes for Sri Lankan medical professionals.
The two nations have also put up a joint front in the COVID-19 battle with India and Sri Lanka being the largest contributors to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for SAARC. Prime Minister Modi had complimented Sri Lanka’s leadership on containing the pandemic. PTI Corr NSA AKJ NSA