China donated 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday to war-torn Syria, which has one of the world’s lowest inoculation rates and what the UN called an alarming rise in cases.
The latest shipment raises to almost two million the number of such deliveries to Syria in a week.
Less than two percent of Syria’s population have been vaccinated and cases of infection are spiking, United Nations under secretary-general Martin Griffiths warned last month.
Damascus last week received more than 1.3 million doses of Chinese-made vaccine Sinovac under the global Covax programme set up to try to ensure an equitable delivery of jabs.
Health Minister Hassan Ghabash, speaking to journalists, praised the latest donation of another Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm.
Beijing’s ambassador Feng Biao, whose country is a Syria regime ally, said Sunday’s consignment raised to 800,000 the number of Sinopharm doses provided by Beijing.
Ghabash said his health services have vaccinated more than 600,000 people and urged more Syrians to come forward for their jabs.
More than 46,000 cases, including 2,661 deaths, have been officially registered in government-controlled regions, but medics and activist groups believe the actual figure is much higher.
The rebel-held Idlib region of northwest Syria, which has recorded more than 90,000 cases, including 2,000 deaths, says it has received almost 690,000 vaccine doses under Covax and inoculated 77,000 people.
The Kurdish administration of northeast Syria that receives vaccines via Damascus has registered 1,500 Covid deaths from 37,000 cases, and about 40,000 residents have been vaccinated.