Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday said the Chinese government is working to start delivering Covid-19 vaccine doses before Eid-ul-Fitr although a 5-day May Day holiday is underway in China.
Seeing it as a sign of "special friendship" with Bangladesh, he said Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming recently informed them that vaccine doses will start arriving here 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," Dr Momen told UNB, adding that they just have helped the Health Ministry establish the network with both China and Russia as alternative sources of vaccines.
The Foreign Minister said everything is now closed in China due to the current holiday – the five-day May Day holiday. The holiday will end on May 5, he said.
"It takes some time as vaccines are produced based on orders," Dr Momen said, adding that discussions with Russia and the United States are on to get vaccines.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reaffirmed that the government will procure vaccines at any cost to protect 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 of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) vaccines through its 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, with 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," Dr Momen said.
He said they came to know, not in any letter (formal channel) but publicly that the US identified India and Brazil as priority countries to supply vaccines.
Dr Momen said the United States assured all concerned of making Covid-19 vaccines available for other countries, including in Bangladesh once they have surplus reaching the level of mass vaccination in the US.
"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, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate told reporters during his recent visit to Bangladesh.
Diplomacy in Digital Era
The Foreign Minister said they are continuing their diplomatic activities using digital tools despite disruptions globally amid Covid pandemic.
"We're continuously connecting with everyone," he said, mentioning that webinars and WhatsApp emerged as frequent means of communication during Covid situation.
Dr Momen, however, said in-person meetings and negotiations came down significantly due to the current situation. "But in-person meetings are good for better negotiations."