His Excellency Ahmed Naseem, Minister of Health; His Excellency Zhang Lizhong, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Maldives;
Distinguished guests, colleagues
I am delighted to be here this morning, to receive on behalf of the Government of Maldives, the first batch of the 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by SinoPharm, and donated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, to the Maldivian people. We are grateful to President Xi Jinping and the friendly people of China for this generous contribution to our ongoing vaccination efforts. While the first batch of the vaccines arrived in the Maldives late last night, the second batch of the vaccines is scheduled to be received by the Maldives on the 30th of this month.
The first batch of the vaccines were brought to the Maldives on a special Maldivian flight by Island Aviation Services Limited (IAS). It was our intention to bring the vaccines to the Maldives in the shortest possible timeframe. I am pleased, that following the issuance of the Emergency Use Approval for the SinoPharm vaccine on 14 March by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA), we were able to deliver the vaccines on 24 March, in exactly 10 days’ time. I would like thank Minister Naseem and the officials at the Ministry of Health for their hard work and due diligence in ensuring that the necessary approvals and arrangements were in place to bring the vaccines. I would also like to express our sincere appreciation to the Managing Director of Island Aviation Services Limited (IAS) and his team, for the excellent manner in which they have undertaken this difficult task.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the Government of Maldives made a strong commitment to vaccinate the entire population of the country as soon as possible and without discrimination, irrespective of their nationality, status of residency, or where they live in the Maldives. The efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been fully aligned to that goal ever since, and we have been working day and night with our international partners to make sure that the ongoing vaccination programme continues unhindered and uninterrupted.
I want to thank Ambassador Zhang, for his leadership and close cooperation, without which we would not be able to secure the vaccines from China. Ambassador Zhang and his team played a crucial role in collaborating with the Government of Maldives in the weeks and days leading up to this, to ensure that the vaccines arrive on schedule. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Her Excellency Aishath Azeema, Ambassador of Maldives to China, and her team who helped coordinate our joint efforts in Beijing. I’m especially grateful to the Chinese companies operating here in the Maldives, who had demonstrated their generosity by contributing financially towards covering some of the costs of the flights.
The Maldives and China enjoy strong bilateral ties. Our bilateral cooperation extends to a number of important areas for the Maldives including economic development, health, education, public sector investments, and most importantly, trade and tourism. It is our intention to continue, in the spirit of friendship, our close collaboration, both bilaterally and in the international sphere.
As we gear up towards global economic recovery following the pandemic, I have no doubt of the important leadership role of the Chinese Government in spearheading those efforts. We in the Maldives, look forward to the close people to people contact, travel and tourism to be reinstated fully, following the unprecedented disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as we eagerly await the arrival of Chinese tourists in the Maldives once again. The resumption of tourism in the Maldives, is the most important and viable economic recovery effort we can undertake to restore the economic and social well-being of the Maldivian people. Let me reiterate once again, the significance of the Chinese market to these efforts.
Before I conclude, I wish to say a few words about Ambassador Zhang, who will be completing his tenure as the Ambassador of China on the 9th of April. Ambassador Zhang has overseen the implementation of important Chinese development projects and initiatives during his time here, directly and positively impacting the lives of the Maldivian people. He has worked tirelessly to promote our partnership, especially during the pandemic, and we will always be grateful to his excellent efforts to further consolidate our bilateral ties.
We have indeed been privileged to have you as the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Maldives, a function which you have discharged with honour and passion. I look forward to the arrival of your successor, and assure you of our fullest support and cooperation to the new ambassador. I wish you and your family good health and success in your future endeavors, and as a special friend of the Maldives, I hope to welcome you back in the not too distant future.