SCO and BRICS: SCO and BRICS: The SCO countries: struggle against the pandemic
25 May 2021

The tasks facing the SCO countries in 2021, in general, were outlined in the final documents of the summit held in November 2020 under the chairmanship of Russia, being transferred after to Tajikistan. The pandemic has exacerbated many socio-economic problems, but no country can solve them alone: ​​ global action, global solution and global cooperation are obligatory.

At present, the SCO structures are developing priority measures to mitigate and overcome the socio-economic consequences of the current crisis in the countries. The development of the digital economy and modern IT technologies plays a decisive role in overcoming the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and creating new sources of growth in the SCO zone, which is a huge market for innovation. McKinsey company predicts that about 30% of working places will be smart by 2030, and PwC notes that over the same period, the global economy will grow by 13.4 trillion euros only through the use of artificial intelligence. 

The purpose of the seminar, held in February 2021 at the SCO Secretariat, was to exchange the experience of the SCO countries in the questions of improving the well-being of people, overcoming poverty and combating the pandemic. It was emphasized that it was during the spread of the coronavirus that China showed impressive indicators of the development of the digital economy, as well as the ability to eradicate poverty in rural areas, including through the widespread involvement of farmers in cross-border e-commerce.

As Bloomberg says, China became the only major economy to demonstrate economic growth in 2020 and the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (163 billion USD), surpassing the United States for the first time. The use of innovations is the secret to success. China has shown a rapid growth of the production of industrial robots, the use of vehicles based on new energy sources and integrated circuits. Income of Chinese enterprises engaged in strategic new services grew by 8.6% in 2020. 

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China and Russia have developed extensive cooperation in such areas as epidemic prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment, testing, research and development of vaccines and drugs. Several dozen projects are already being implemented with the support of the governments of the two countries. For example, an agreement has been reached on the creation of a joint laboratory to combat COVID-19, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research have developed a «Special Cooperation Program to Combat COVID-19».

As for the development of the vaccine, the Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSinoBiologics, together with the Russian company Petrovax, started the third phase of clinical trials of the Ad5-nCov vaccine in Russia. The issue of the production of Sputnik V at the Chinese enterprises is currently under consideration. In the field of cooperation in the development of drugs against COVID-19, the Chinese part, upon request of the Russian part, has provided data of clinical trials of Favipiravir, which contributed to the rapid development of clinical trials and drug registration in Russia. At the same time, the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation has already approved an application for registration of the Chinese drug Azifuding and the beginning of the third phase of clinical trials.

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The creation of a vaccine is an important aspect of the cooperation of the entire world community in the fight against the epidemic. Last October China officially joined the WHO «Vaccine against COVID-19 Implementation Plan» and decided to provide 10 million vaccines for the implementation of this plan, which will mainly be distributed in developing countries. China and Russia are ready to promote fair distribution of the vaccine around the world.

How do the SCO countries experience the pandemic today?

KAZAKHSTAN 

According to the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan, in the country as a whole, the situation with the spread of COVID-19 remains tense. In the «red zone» there are 8 out of 17 regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, including the largest cities with a population of over 1 million people - Alma-Ata and Nur-Sultan.

Quarantine restrictions were in effect in the country until mid-April of this year, when mass events were prohibited. Sports sections, cinemas, museums, theaters, night and computer clubs, as well as fitness centers and indoor attractions were closed. The only exceptions were entertainment centers and clubs, participants of the Ashyq («Discovery») project. Visiting them was only possible if staff and visitors had negative P.C.R. tests for coronavirus. 

In the spring of 2021 lockdown has not been introduced in the country, and quarantine restrictions are gradually being eased. So, on April the 5th, in Alma-Ata, the activities of organizations resumed, the work of which had been significantly limited since mid-March, when an increase in cases of coronavirus infection was recorded. The usual work schedule for public transport has been restored.

At the same time, severe restrictions on educational institutions remain in Kazakhstan. A significant part of schoolchildren and students continues to study online.

In terms of vaccination, less than 0.2% of the population has been vaccinated in Kazakhstan since February the 1st, 2021, which is one of the worst rates in the world. 

INDIA

The spread of the coronavirus in India has deteriorated sharply in recent months. More than 40 countries have declared their readiness to provide assistance to the country. The WHO also announced an emergency dispatch of more than 2.6 thousand of its employees to India. The organization will also provide equipment and supplies to India, including thousands of oxygen concentrators, mobile prefabricated field hospitals and laboratory supplies.

Russia sent more than 20 tons of humanitarian aid to India, including high-tech equipment made in Russia, which has been delivered to medical institutions in Bangalore, Chennaya and Mumbai since 2018.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has reached an agreement with Indian companies to produce up to 850 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine. The application for limited use of Sputnik V in emergency situations was submitted by the pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. In anticipation of the end of the tests and obtaining permission, RDIF signed agreements for the production of Sputnik V with five more Indian manufacturers. Thus, by agreement with Hetero Biopharma, it is planned to produce more than 100 million doses of Russian vaccine per year, Gland Pharma can produce up to 252 million, Stelis Biopharma - 200 million, Virchow Biotech - 200 million, and Panacea Biotec - 100 million doses.

The Russian vaccine will be produced in India for use both domestically and in third countries.

Indian experts expect that the arrival of the Russian vaccine in the country will become one of the decisive factors in the fight against COVID-19. 

UZBEKISTAN

The first case of COVID-19 was registered in Uzbekistan on March the 15th, 2020. Two weeks later, the first delivery of humanitarian aid arrived from China: Chinese military companies Norinko, Viek Tochmash, Haytera, Poly Technology and others sent 20 tons of cargo to fight COVID-19, including medicines, disposable sterile medical gloves, goggles, face masks and thermal imagers.

From March to May 2020, test systems for 88.5 thousand laboratory tests were delivered from Russia to Uzbekistan. In addition, three mobile laboratories were handed over, equipped on the basis of a GAZ vehicle and intended for autonomous laboratory research.

In the midst of the pandemic online communication was established between medical specialists of the two countries to provide consultations on the prevention and treatment of coronavirus infection.

In July 2020, a consignment of humanitarian aid from India arrived in Tashkent, which included medicines effective in treating COVID-19 patients.

In connection with the detection of a South African strain of coronavirus in the country, security measures have been tightened in Uzbekistan since April the 18th, 2021. Kindergartens and schools in which cases of COVID-19 are detected will be quarantined for two weeks. At the same time, educational institutions will continue to work remotely. Anti-epidemic measures have already been strengthened in shopping centers, shops and markets, concert halls and entertainment venues. Catering facilities are prohibited from accepting more than a hundred visitors at the same time; they are allowed to fill no more than 50% of seats.

On May 7, 2021, the presidents of Russia and Uzbekistan, Vladimir Putin and Shavkat Mirziyoyev, discussed the struggle against the pandemic, including the production of a vaccine against coronavirus in Uzbekistan. 

KYRGYZSTAN

As a result of the pandemic, the economy of Kyrgyzstan suffered the largest decline in Central Asia, the country's gross domestic product decreased by 8.6%.

In December 2020, the National Statistical Committee of Kyrgyzstan conducted an independent study «On the Impact of COVID-19 on Households». 3869 households took part in the polls. In general, about 76% of households were affected by the consequences of the pandemic. In the first place is the decrease in income among households (51%), followed by the dissatisfaction of parents with the process of online education of children (32%), as well as the emotional depression of one of the adult members of the household (20%). 51% of households experienced a decrease in income due to COVID-19. More than 28% of households received social support, among which more than 79% - from government bodies.

On February 24-25, 2021, during the official visit of the President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov to Russia, agreements were reached on the supply of the Sputnik V vaccine. But, despite this, the process of vaccination against coronavirus has not yet begun in the country. Currently, Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia that has not received a vaccine and is on standby.

The SCO member states give particular importance to the questions of ensuring the safety of public health. Since the beginning of the pandemic, large-scale measures have been deployed to provide mutual assistance, sending the necessary materials and specialists to the countries. The SCO member states adopted a Comprehensive Plan of Joint Measures to Counter the Threats of Epidemics in the Region with the aim of strengthening the public health system.

Today there are Chinese, Russian and Indian vaccines, and at the moment they have begun deliveries to the SCO countries and other foreign countries. Russia has joined the international COVAX program (delivering vaccines to the world's poorest countries) and is increasing production to meet the demand for the Sputnik V vaccine approved in 56 countries. In addition, Russia has launched a joint vaccine production in South Korea, India, Brazil, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In total, it is planned to produce 1.4 billion doses, which will be enough for 700 million people. China, in turn, provided vaccines free of charge to 69 countries and organized commercial shipments to additionally 43 countries. By the end of the year, 2 billion doses of vaccines will be produced at 18 production lines in China. Thus, Russia and China hope to reduce the global shortage of the medicine and eliminate inequalities in its distribution.

China is also providing essential assistance in the deliveries of medicines, medical equipment and protective clothing, and referral of medical professionals to combat COVID-19. Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are also providing assistance to the countries in greatest need in the region.

Thus, in the format of multilateral cooperation in the SCO timely and demonstrating good results measures are being taken to strengthen health systems throughout the SCO zone, including great struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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