New Delhi: The Maldives will become the first country to receive the Indian COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. The Indian Ocean Island country will receive Oxford Astrazeneca's Covishield vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India. The Maldives government has given all regulatory approvals and permissions.
The Indian consignment will arrive at 2 pm (local time) by Air India flight at Velana International Airport Male. The development reaffirms India's reputation as the first responder in an emergency situation, especially in the neighbourhood.
Maldives has been the largest COVID-19 assistance recipient in India’s neighbourhood including medicine supply, food supply, medical team, training, and financial assistance of USD 250 million. Under the operation Sanjeevani, the Indian Air force airlifted 6.3 tonnes of essential medicines and consumables from various cities in India in April 2020.
Additionally, under Mission Sagar one of the Indian Navy to reach out to countries with COVID-19 aid, India sent food to five Indian ocean countries including the Maldives just before the onset of Ramzan.
In fact, India sent 600 tonnes of food items to the Maldives via Indian Naval Ship Kesari. The package includes 200 tonnes of rice, 140 tonnes of wheat flour, 120 tonnes of yellow dal, 80 tonnes of sugar, 26 tonnes of onions and 14 tonnes of Potato. Another key focus has been capacity building with the training of Maldivian healthcare officials.
In 2020, India had formally extended the USD 250 million loan to the Maldives to help it mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The Indian mission in the Maldives had said in a statement, "The budgetary support of USD 250 million is extended without conditions."
The grant, provided under the most favourable terms possible, was handed over at a ceremony in Maldivian capital Male in the presence of Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, Indian High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir and CEO of SBI in Male, Bharat Mishra.
It was in response to the request made by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overcome the difficult economic situation in the Maldives. "The Maldives government is at liberty to use the money in repairing the domestic economic situation in line with its own priorities".
The financial assistance was first announced during a virtual meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and provided through a Treasury Bond sale to the State Bank of India (SBI), Male which has a tenure of 10 years for repayment, the embassy had said.