I am incredibly grateful to Mr Sharma for securing the debate. I am sure everyone in the House will pay tribute to his work as chair of the Nepal all-party parliamentary group. It is absolutely right to debate vaccine access as Nepal recovers from a devastating second wave of covid-19. It is vital that the country has a clear route to a comprehensive vaccine programme.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the United Kingdom and Nepal share a very deep relationship that has lasted over two centuries. In fact, Nepal’s first formal diplomatic relationship was established with us in 1816 and Nepal has held a special place in our hearts ever since, not least through the distinguished service of Gurkhas in the British Army and the bravery and excellence of its Sherpas who have inspired thousands of British mountaineers over the decades, as well as through the kindness and warmth of its people and because of its spectacular natural beauty.
In May, the delta variant of covid-19 spread to Nepal and quickly took hold in a devastating second wave of infections. As the hon. Member said, that overwhelmed Nepal’s healthcare system, and the people of Nepal have suffered immensely. I speak for the United Kingdom Government in offering my deepest condolences to the people of Nepal for the hardships they have endured in recent months.