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Published: 12:43, August 16, 2021
SE Asia gets more vaccines, equipment from China amid Delta fight
By Yang Han in Hong Kong
Published:12:43, August 16, 2021 By Yang Han in Hong Kong

A worker transports China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines at the Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 31, 2021. (PHOTO BY GAO BINGNAN / XINHUA)

As Southeast Asian countries battle another wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the more contagious Delta strain of the virus, China is bringing some relief to the region by providing fresh supplies of vaccines and other medical supplies.

On Aug 12, a new batch, comprising 3 million doses, of Chinese firm Sinovac’s COVID vaccines arrived in Phnom Penh, giving a boost to Cambodia’s vaccination drive.

Yok Sambath, the Cambodian health ministry's secretary of state, said she is grateful for China’s vaccine delivery, and that her nation now has enough vaccines to sustain the immunization campaign, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Besides the latest vaccine delivery, China’s Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian on Aug 11 handed over a batch of medical supplies donated by different Chinese municipal governments to Phnom Penh, including oxygen concentrators and disinfection tablets

Cambodia has so far received about 25 million vaccine doses, mostly from China, according to Yok.

As of Aug 10, Cambodia had provided at least one dose of COVID-19 shots to 8 million adults, or 80 percent of the 10 million targeted adult population, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote on his official Facebook page. The country started its vaccination campaign on Feb 10.

Since the resurgence of the novel coronavirus in Cambodia in February, central as well as local governments in China have stepped up support to Cambodia by providing vaccines and anti-pandemic materials.

Besides the latest vaccine delivery, China’s Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian on Aug 11 handed over a batch of medical supplies donated by different Chinese municipal governments to Phnom Penh, including oxygen concentrators and disinfection tablets.

The Chinese embassy said it also donated ten boxes of traditional Chinese medicines, which was designated as a main formula for treating COVID-19 in China.

“People now realized that China is a true friend of Cambodia,” said Chea Munyrith, president of the Cambodian Chinese Evolution Researcher Association, noting that the vaccines and medical assistance provided by China are crucial for a resource-limited country like Cambodia.

Without the vaccines provided by China, the pandemic situation in Cambodia could have been chaotic, Chea told China Daily. Also, he said that more people in Cambodia now believe in the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines and traditional Chinese medicines.

Chea noted that China’s support has also been crucial for other regional countries, such as Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, which have battling rising cases of the more infectious Delta variant of the COVID virus.

ALSO READ: Indonesia: COVID-19 deaths for unvaccinated over 3 times higher

In Laos, a handover ceremony for the fifth batch of China-donated COVID vaccines was held on Aug 11, according to the Chinese embassy in that country.

Representatives of China and Vietnam pose for a group photo with COVID-19 prevention and control materials at a border crossing between China and Vietnam, on May 12, 2020. (CHINESE EMBASSY TO VIETNAM / HANDOUT VIA XINHUA)

To date, China has donated over 2.9 million vaccine doses to Laos. Since the second wave of infections began in Laos in April, China has sent a fresh team of medical experts and emergency anti-pandemic supplies to help the country control the outbreak

To date, China has donated over 2.9 million vaccine doses to Laos. Since the second wave of infections began in Laos in April, China has sent a fresh team of medical experts and emergency anti-pandemic supplies to help the country control the outbreak.

Speaking at the latest vaccine handover ceremony, Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh said he is thankful for China’s new donation of 1 million vaccine doses, which was made in response to Lao government’s request.

He said the donations make huge contribution to Laos’ goal to vaccinate 50 percent of its population within 2021.

In Myanmar, after a batch of one million COVID-19 vaccines was delivered on Aug 8, China has so far provided 4.5 million vaccines to the Southeast Asian country, including 2.5 million doses donated.

Southern Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, the country's current COVID-19 epicenter, started administering China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine among its Vietnamese citizens, Xinhua reported. The city received 1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from sponsors on July 31.

China has donated and is donating vaccines to more than 100 countries, and has exported more than 770 million doses of vaccines to over 60 countries, the most of any nation in the world, according to a statement posted on the website of China’s foreign ministry, citing Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

President Xi Jinping said on Aug 5 that China will provide 2 billion doses of vaccines to the world and donate US$100 million to the United Nations-backed COVAX facility for distributing vaccines to developing countries.

“The donations and supplies made by China to various Southeast Asian countries are generally appreciated,” said Ngeow Chow Bing, director of the Institute of China Studies at the University of Malaya, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“It is a common goal for all countries to fight the pandemic.”

ALSO READ: SE Asia assets go from bad to worse as Delta hurts region

Noting concerns in some quarters that the China-developed vaccines may not be as effective as some other COVID-19 jabs, Ngeow told China Daily that even if that is the case, “China’s vaccines are still helping the fight against the pandemic and preventing deaths”.

Hong Kong-based GX Foundation donated 20 tons of medical supplies to Cambodia’s Ministry of Health on July 7, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

China has donated and is donating vaccines to more than 100 countries, and has exported more than 770 million doses of vaccines to over 60 countries, the most of any nation in the world, according to a statement posted on the website of China’s foreign ministry, citing Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Chinese non-governmental organizations have also proactively participated in the global fight against the pandemic.

For example, on July 7, Hong Kong-based GX Foundation donated 20 metric tons of medical supplies to Cambodia, after making a similar donation to Laos in June.

Emily Chan Ying-yang, chief executive of GX Foundation, said the foundation, whose main project is cataract blindness elimination, decided to offer help in order to address humanitarian needs in countries along the Belt and Road route.

As soon as the pandemic situation eases, the foundation will launch a project to provide cataract surgeries to patients in Laos in October and Cambodia in December, extending the healthcare cooperation and enhancing people-to-people ties, according to Chan. 

“For the elderly, one more day of being able to see means one more day (with improved) quality of life for them,” said Chan, adding that a 20-minute operation procedure can not only allow the patient to see again but also means the person can be economically productive again.

As public health infrastructure has come under renewed focus during the pandemic, Ngeow from the University of Malaya said Southeast Asian nations will welcome any country, including China, to be a partner in improving such infrastructure, and he expects this to be a major direction of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative in the years to come.

“Health Silk Road essentially is basically about medical health and public health cooperation,” said Ngeow.

The Health Silk Road is an initiative linked to the BRI, which focuses on safeguarding public health security, promoting the development and public health and encouraging innovation in the sector.

READ MORE: Philippines sees biggest jump in COVID-19 toll in 4 months

“I think on its own, Health Silk Road should be welcomed, although the concept itself, just like the Belt and Road Initiative, has been given a lot of ‘geopolitical’ interpretation, and this would somewhat complicate the regional acceptance of it,” said Ngeow.

kelly@chinadailyapac.com

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