China will donate 500,000 doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan, the country’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday.
It comes as the number of coronavirus cases surged to 527,146 in Pakistan, with over 11,000 deaths since the virus was first detected in February last year.
“Pakistan greatly appreciates the 500,000 doses of the vaccine gifted by China,” foreign minister Qureshi tweeted.
The news follows similar announcements from other nations in the region — the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar have all announced they were set to receive vaccine donations from Beijing.
Qureshi had earlier told reporters: “China has assured us that the first shipment of half a million doses will be free of cost and will arrive by end of January”.
Beijing also promised to send another one million doses by end of February, he said, adding that emergency use and authorisation of the SinoPharm vaccine had been approved in Pakistan.
For years, China has focused much of its attention in Pakistan on mammoth development projects, bankrolling the construction of roads, power plants and a strategic port.
Beijing has also recently tapped Islamabad — one of its closest allies — to participate in the vaccine trials, despite the country’s chequered history with inoculation campaigns.