Bangladesh secures vaccine boost after coronavirus cases pass one million

Bangladesh has so far vaccinated only 5.8 million people out of its population of 169 million.
Bangladesh has so far vaccinated only 5.8 million people out of its population of 169 million.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh has sealed deals for 17.5 million more coronavirus vaccine doses, its health minister said on Saturday (July 10), as the country battles record deaths and its caseload passed one million.

The country of 169 million people has imposed its harshest lockdown as it seeks to curb a major surge in cases and record numbers of deaths.

The lockdown has been in place for two weeks and is backed by troops on the streets to keep people in their homes.

It is expected that the restrictions will be extended past the current end date of July 14.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the government was concentrating on increasing the number of vaccine doses available.

So far, only 5.8 million people in the country have been vaccinated, with the drive hampered by India's suspension of exports due to its own shortages.

Mr Maleque said 4.5 million new jabs had been procured, while Bangladesh would also get six million under the Covax international alliance, and China would start supplying another five million from August.

"We think that in the coming days there will be no shortage of the vaccine," Mr Maleque told reporters. "Our aim is to gradually vaccinate some 80 per cent of the people."

The minister has faced criticism as the pandemic worsens.

The national caseload crossed one million on Friday when another 11,324 infections were recorded. The number of deaths is over 16,000, with a record 212 added on Friday.

Many experts say the real toll is at least five times higher.

The number of Covid-19 patients has risen eightfold in the past month, the minister said, and the government aimed to build new hospitals and recruit 4,000 new doctors and 4,000 nurses.