The China lead foreign ministers meeting of five South Asian nations including Bangladesh over Covid-19 cooperation has showed concern over “vaccine nationalism” saying it would hinder the global efforts in curbing surge of the highly infectious coronavirus.

“The foreign ministers expressed that ‘vaccine nationalism’ will hinder the global efforts to defeat Covid-19 and underscored the need to avoid the ‘immunity gap’,” said a joint statement issued on Wednesday, a day after a virtual meeting.

At the meeting, the foreign ministers agreed that vaccines, as a key weapon to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, should be distributed in accordance with the principle of equity and justice, said the statement.

They also exchanged views on international and regional cooperation on the pandemic response and post-Covid economic recovery.

Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen joined the meeting along with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, Afghan acting foreign minister Mirwais Nab, Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Pakistan foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Sri Lankan foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

To push forward practical cooperation in relevant fields, China announced its decision to establish a China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, set up a China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre, and hold a China-South Asian Countries E-commerce Cooperation Forum on Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas.

The other participating countries also expressed their support, said the statement.

The foreign ministers pointed out that Covid-19 is a common enemy of humankind, and that countries should step up solidarity and cooperation to win the final victory over it.

The six countries welcomed the active participation of other countries in the region in a spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation.

The foreign ministers agreed to closely follow the development of Covid-19 situation in India, and expressed their willingness to provide needed support through respective channels in consultation with India.

China expressed its readiness to provide continued medical supplies and technical assistance to the participating countries to the best of its ability.

The foreign ministers reiterated their firm support to WHO’s due role in the global cooperation against Covid-19 and acknowledged that tracing the origin of the virus is a matter of science and a global mission.

They expressed opposition to politicising the issue, said the statement. It said, China will act on president Xi Jinping’s important statement on making the vaccines a global public good, and carry out continued vaccine cooperation with the participating countries in a flexible manner, including co-production of Covid-19 vaccines.

The foreign ministers agreed to deepen belt and road cooperation, open their borders under the premise of pandemic prevention and control for smooth trade, keep the industrial and supply chains stable and secure, and give a stronger boost to economic recovery and the improvement of people’s lives.

China agreed to support the participating countries to overcome the impact of Covid-19 on their economies through enhanced level of economic cooperation and collaboration.

The foreign ministers stressed the importance to strengthen cooperation in poverty reduction, food security and other non-traditional security fields to protect the livelihood of people with special attention to the most vulnerable groups.

To facilitate personnel exchanges against the backdrop of Covid-19, the foreign ministers agreed to discuss the possibility of mutual recognition of digital “health codes.”

The foreign ministers agreed to make these mechanisms inclusive, transparent, sustainable and demand-driven ones.

They also agreed to maintain the momentum of cooperation among the six countries, hold consultations at the foreign minister, vice foreign minister/secretary and director general levels, expand cooperation areas and lend impetus to future cooperation.