The Chinese government is working to start the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines before Eid even though there is a five-day May Day holiday in China, said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen yesterday.
Seeing it as a sign of "special friendship" with Bangladesh, he said Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming recently informed them that the vaccines would start arriving before Eid while Health Minister Zahid Maleque shared a more specific date -- May 10.
"The health ministry will decide when and how many doses of the vaccine will arrive, and what will be the transportation system. They know when we'll need it," Momen told UNB, adding that they just have helped the health ministry establish communications with China and Russia.
The foreign minister said everything was closed in China due to the holidays and that the holidays would end today.
"It takes some time as vaccines are produced based on orders," Momen said, adding that discussions with Russia and the United States were on to get more vaccines.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reaffirmed that the government would procure vaccines at any cost to protect its people from coronavirus. "We are bringing more vaccines, no matter how much money is required; we will bring more vaccines."
China was supposed to give 5 lakh doses of vaccine as a gift apart from supplying vaccines through commercial purchase.
Bangladesh has received 7 million Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) through a contract. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses of vaccine as a bilateral partnership gift. This is the largest amount sent from India to any country.
The US has decided to share its entire stock of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines with the world once it clears federal safety reviews, the White House said. As many as 60 million doses expected to be available for export in the coming months.
"We sought vaccines from the US as they've a stock of 60 million doses. We would definitely welcome it," Momen said.
He said they came to know, not through any letter (formal channel), but publicly that the US identified India and Brazil as priority countries to supply the vaccines.
Momen said the US assured all concerned of making the vaccines available for other countries, including Bangladesh, once they have surplus.
"I can assure you when we can reach the level of the critical mass vaccination and we've surplus, we'll absolutely make vaccines available in whatever different ways," said John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, told reporters during his recent visit to Bangladesh.
The foreign minister said they were continuing their diplomatic activities using digital tools despite global disruptions due to the pandemic.
"We're continuously connecting with everyone," he said, mentioning that webinars and WhatsApp emerged as means of communication.
Momen said in-person meetings and negotiations came down significantly due to the current situation. "But in-person meetings are good for better negotiations."