by Jamila Najmuddin
COLOMBO, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- China has helped Sri Lanka in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the island country now looks forward to furthering its ties with China in order to recover from the pandemic, Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage said.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Colombage said 2021 will be a very challenging year for countries including Sri Lanka due to the fight against the pandemic, and Sri Lanka now needs the support of its friends more than in any other years in history.
China has already assisted Sri Lanka since the first local COVID-19 patient was detected in March last year. Since then, China has sent medical assistance such as surgical masks, personal protective equipment, and surgical gloves in large quantities to the country's health authorities, Colombage said.
"This has helped Sri Lanka in its battle against the pandemic."
Colombage said China has fought the virus very effectively as it has begun producing vaccines in large quantities and is helping other countries by donating vaccines.
"China is going to give us a large number of vaccines and arrangements are being made. I was told these vaccines will arrive here soon. That is a really great gesture. We need more support in this battle against the COVID-19," Colombage said.
The foreign secretary said the COVID-19 has shattered the country's economic hope and development progress.
"We now really need to catch up," Colombage said.
"I think China, being one of the leading economies in the world, and the number one development partner of Sri Lanka, can help us," Colombage added.
Attracting more investments from China will create more job opportunities for locals, said the official, adding that reaping the benefits from China's Belt and Road Initiative will be a priority.
Sri Lanka will also look to boost local production in order to join the global supply chain, Colombage said.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Sri Lanka closed its borders in March last year in order to prevent a further spread.
Since then, its tourism industry has suffered severe setbacks with a halt in tourist arrivals.
In order to revive the economy, Colombage said, Sri Lanka will pay more attention to the ocean as he believed that Sri Lanka has the great potential to be a maritime hub in the Indian Ocean.
"In that, I see the Belt and Road Initiative as a great prospect for Sri Lanka to be more connected to the global supply chain."
Sri Lanka has three deepwater ports, which are viewed by Colombage as the country's biggest assets.
"So we need to benefit from that. We need to benefit economically from the Belt and Road Initiative. We need to develop our maritime-related infrastructure," he said. Enditem