Bangladesh joins Chinese initiative for vaccine, oxygen
We welcome the government's decision to join five other South Asian countries in a multilateral effort to ensure vaccine and oxygen supply among the countries. The China-led initiative, called "China-South Asia Platform for Covid-19 Consultation, Cooperation, and Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery", had its first meeting held virtually with the foreign ministers of Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan in attendance. During the meeting, Bangladesh's foreign minister stressed on the importance of multilateralism and cooperation among countries during the Covid-19 crisis.
There are plans of establishing a Covid Emergency Medical Facility, a Poverty Alleviation Centre, and of exploring e-commerce in rural areas in Bangladesh, as proposed by China. While there are no solid plans yet as to when and where the medical facility would be built, we would urge the government to see the plan through diligently. Last March, the prime minister had reportedly proposed setting up a regional institution for emergency medical services but the plan never reached fruition. Now that the pandemic has resulted in dire situations across the region, such multilateral partnerships are more crucial than ever.
While Bangladesh is trying to purchase China's vaccine doses following an unexpected halt to supplies from the Serum Institute of India, China had also agreed earlier to provide five lakh shots of its vaccine as a gift. Both the Chinese vaccine and the Russian Sputnik V will be imported under "emergency use authorisation". However, we must also stress on the importance of ensuring an adequate supply of not only vaccines but also oxygen. There is no better example for us now than India's current situation of oxygen shortage, to the point where its supply to Bangladesh has been kept on hold for almost a week. Bangladesh itself does not have enough supply of oxygen, as demand has doubled amid the recent Covid-19 surge. Even with companies switching production from industrial oxygen to medical oxygen (as reported in this daily on April 21), many patients are not being able to get oxygen at public hospitals.
Therefore, while we congratulate the government on joining the Chinese initiative that will hopefully promote cooperation amongst the partners in fighting the pandemic in their respective countries, we must also urge it to ensure that maximum benefits are derived from this partnership in terms of vaccine and oxygen supply for our citizens.