Abu Dhabi [UAE], December 4 (ANI): Underlining the threat posed by the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday called upon nations that have the wherewithal to support the vaccination drive of less wealthy countries more effectively.
Speaking at the 5th Indian Ocean Conference (IOC), Rajapaksa said, "We greatly appreciate the generosity of India, China, US and Japan, all of whom donated vaccines to us either directly or through COVAX which augmented the larger quantity Sri Lanka purchased from manufacturers on commercial terms."
"At the same time, it is a matter of concern that the relatively slow rollout of the vaccines in some parts of the world has resulted in the emergence of a potentially devastating new variant of the virus that needs to be carefully monitored," he added.
Rajapaksa warned that if existing vaccines are less effective against this new Omicron variant, the world may soon return to square one, adding that "border closure and other restrictions including lockdown imposed once again with potentially catastrophic consequences."
"I, therefore, call upon nations that have the wherewithal to support the vaccination drive of less wealthy countries more effectively. The COVID-19 pandemic will not end until everyone, everywhere is inoculated against the virus," he said.
During his address, Rajapaksa also appreciated the cooperation between nations in the early stages of the pandemic including sharing data and technical expertise and supporting capacity building in the healthcare system and financial assistance.
He said the Indian Ocean Conference provides an invaluable opportunity for countries in the region as well as our partners to deliberate on critical issues affecting the world.
The theme of this year's conference centres on three topics -- Ecology, Economy and Epidemic. (ANI)