- As of Sunday, Zimbabwe had recorded 35,172 cases of the viral infection including 1,400 deaths.
HARARE: Zimbabwe on Monday received its first batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines from China as the country, already struggling with a deepening economic crisis and scant health resources, geared up to begin inoculations.
Wrapped in white tarpaulin, the shipment of 200,000 doses, a donation from the Chinese government, arrived early Monday aboard the country's only working aircraft - an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767.
The aircraft was often used by the late former ruler Robert Mugabe to travel abroad for medical treatment or routine check-ups.
Receiving the vaccines at Robert Mugabe International Airport, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said, "it has not been lost on us that in times of need, China's response has been swift."
Chiwenga said the donation was "timely" and "yet another demonstration of the long bond of friendship and solidarity."
Zimbabwe is the first country in southern African to receive the Sinopharm jabs, whose efficacy against a new variant that emerged in neighbouring South Africa, is still unclear.
The vaccines would undergo routine checks by the local medicines control authority before they start to be administered this week.
It has already ordered another 600,000 jabs from China expected to be delivered in early March.
In all the country plans to procure a total of 1.8 million doses of the Sinopharm formula -- which is 79 percent effective, according to its developers.
"Next month we will be acquiring additional vaccines from China to the tune of 600,000 doses and the programme will continue until we head towards the target of 1.8 million doses," said Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube at the airport.
The cash-strapped government has budgeted $100 million for the purchase of vaccines.
As of Sunday, Zimbabwe had recorded 35,172 cases of the viral infection including 1,400 deaths.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected later Monday to make an announcement after he imposed a new lockdown last month, including a dusk-to-dawn curfew, to curb the spread of the infection.