New Delhi, May 17: Japan and Sri Lanka have signed an agreement to enable the Indian Ocean nation battle the Covid-19 pandemic better. Under the agreement, Japan will provide essential equipment for Sri Lankan hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Under the ‘Project for Strengthening COVID-19 Response’ as the pact between the two nations is called, Japan will provide ventilators, ICU beds, ultrasound scanners, blood gas analyzers and similar medical equipment for hospitals. The equipment will be installed in four hospitals – Base Hospital Teldeniya, Base Hospital Warakapola, Base Hospital Walikanda, and Base Hospital Pimbura.
Sri Lankan newspaper Daily News reported that the agreement was signed between Secretary Health Major General Dr Sanjeewa Munasinghe and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) chief representative Yamada Tetsuya on Thursday.
Japan will also assist Sri Lanka in setting up a PCR laboratory at the Hambantota District General Hospital to strengthen diagnostic capability. Japan will also provide training to Sri Lankan medical staff over Covid-19 management. This will help improve testing numbers in the southern province.
Daily News said: “JICA believes this project will be able to significantly contribute to the Covid-19 testing, diagnosis, and treatment in Sri Lanka and to mitigate the difficult situation the country is facing now.”
In the last 24 hours, Sri Lanka had 2,289 Covid infections with the weekly average at 2,392 daily infections. The country is procuring additional vaccines from China and the defence forces are setting up more hospitals to deal with coronavirus emergencies.
The aid is worth approximately $1.8 million. Japan is one of the largest donors for Sri Lanka with financial and technical relations continuing since 1954. Over decades, relations between the two nations have graduated from religious and cultural to financial and political.
Last month Japan also approved another $3 million to support the cold chain in Sri Lanka and strengthen delivery of immunization services for preventing the coronavirus infection. The project will be implemented by UNICEF.
In April the two countries celebrated 69 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Sri Lanka and Japan diplomatic relations though bound by common religion have seen considerable ups and downs owing to China making inroads in South Asia. Sandwiched between two global ports of Dubai and Singapore, Sri Lanka straddles vital shipping lanes, making it an important country strategically. Owing to this location, China has pushed massive investment into the country through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Japan, along with India, has been making efforts to counter the Chinese influence in the island nation. The two are together developing a deep-sea port – the West Container Terminal (WCT), close to a Chinese port project at the Colombo port. Separately also India and Japan are working with Sri Lanka to strengthen relations and reduce Chinese influence.
In September 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa held their first-ever India-Sri Lanka virtual bilateral summit. Doordarshan News had reported that India extended a grant of $15 million to Sri Lanka to develop people-to-people linkages as well as develop Buddhist sites in the country. India is also working on the five-year High Impact Community Development projects in the island nation.
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