World Bank extends USD 80.5 million to Sri Lanka for COVID-19 vaccination drive

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Colombo, May 14 (PTI) The World Bank on Friday extended USD 80.5 million to Sri Lanka for its COVID-19 vaccination drive.

'This useful and timely resource will help us ensure equitable vaccine deployment among the eligible populations of Sri Lanka,' said Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, after the agreement was signed with the global financial body.

World Bank, Country Director of Sri Lanka, Faris Hadad-Zervos said: “The World Bank remains responsive to the health priorities of Sri Lanka as well as emergency needs. Effective deployment of the vaccines will help Sri Lanka protect people, build human capital and facilitate inclusive economic recovery.' Sri Lanka has so far inoculated 1.1 million people with the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, of whom 244,000 people have been given the second dose.

The vaccination programme was rolled out in late January after India gifted 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine.

State Minister Sudarshani Fernandopulle said the country was short of approximately 600,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine to complete the second dose.

Sri Lanka has opted for other vaccines due to the delay in AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India.

Fernandopulle said the government had ordered 13 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia and signed an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for 5 million doses of its vaccine.

The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine is currently being administered with 600,000 doses.

Sri Lanka has recorded a spike in the number of people infected with the coronavirus after the health guidelines were disregarded during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year last month.

All public events have been stopped until May 20 as no gatherings are allowed. The government and authorities have come under increasing fire for failure to order a lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.

“People are dying because of the government's arrogance,' said Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya has demanded the government to stop infrastructure projects and diverts funds to check the pandemic.

“Any damage to the economy can be recovered. We cannot recover lost lives,” former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

The coronavirus has killed 892 people, along with 135,796 confirmed cases, in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University. PTI CORR IND

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