President Gotabaya Rajapaksa applauded Prime Minister Modi and the people of India for generosity shown in this time of need

Expressing its gratitude for India’s help in a time of need, Sri Lanka has thanked New Delhi for its gift of 5 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The island-nation received the consignment of Covishield vaccines from India on Thursday.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took to Twitter to acknowledge India’s help. He said, “Received 500,000 Covid-19 vaccines provided by people of India at BIA today (28). Thank you PM Shri Narendra Modi and people of India for the generosity shown towards people of Sri Lanka at this time in need.”

India’s gift of vaccines was handed over to President Rajapaksa at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) by High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay in a programme titled ‘Vaccine Maitri- Gifting of India’s Covishiled Vaccines to Sri Lanka’.

The vaccines, weighing about 1,323 kg, will initially be stored at the airport’s cold storage facilities before being transported in refrigerated vehicles to 25 districts at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius.

A statement from the Sri Lankan President’s office stated that vaccination is set to commence from January 29 at six main hospitals in the Western Province. The island-nation has prioritized 150,000 health workers, 120,000 members of tri-forces, police and security forces, the release added.

India has supplied a consignment of 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India. Sri Lanka’s drug regulatory authority had earlier this month approved emergency use of the Covishield Vaccine.

The vaccines that reached Colombo on Thursday are India’s gift to the island-nation under its ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, under which it has supplied vaccines to seven other countries in the South Asian region.

The supply of vaccines by India is a fulfillment of the promise made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa during the bilateral summit held in September last year.

Prime Minister Modi had pledged all possible support to the island-nation for minimizing health and economic impact of the pandemic.

Sri Lanka is an important constituent of India’s Neighbourhood First policy. In keeping with this policy, New Delhi launched Operation Vaccine Maitri under which it supplied Covid-19 vaccines to Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had paid a three-day state visit to Sri Lanka in January and had discussed cooperation for post-Covid health and economic recovery. Jaishankar had received a formal request from Sri Lanka for India’s assistance in obtaining the Covid vaccines.