SAARC leaders hold unprecedented conference to combat Novel Coronavirus

The SAARC nations — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka — held a conference to discuss the “roadmap to fight the challenge of COVID-19, Novel Coronavirus”.

The meet was chaired by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He suggested for the creation of an emergency fund with “voluntary contributions” to counter the novel coronavirus. India would start with an “initial offer” of $10 million, PM Modi said during the conference.

All nations vowed to share any knowledge of the disease, and stay connected during these tough times.

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina urged a similar video conference meet among health officials and the departments in-charge. She stressed for forging collaboration among the SAARC countries through collective expertise and resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic and proposed that an institution be established to prevent and fight any public health threat in the South Asian region in future.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of Maldives, highlighted that two-third of his nation’s income comes from foreign exchange receipts that tourisms brings and therefore urged a comprehensive plan and strategy to tackle the economic loss that the virus could inflict to the island nation.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s made one of the most valuable ideas to keep children and adults occupied during any lockdown, and thereby proposed a distance education plan. Ghani proposed for the SAARC satellite and India satellite be made available” to keep people connected because otherwise “social distancing that is necessary cannot just take place,” he said.

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa reiterated that the elections for the state assembly shall proceed as per scheduled, however it has curbed large gatherings and mega campaignings. President Rajapaksa suggested for the SAARC economic think tanks to get together to prepare a roadmap to fight the economic strains.

PM Lotay Tshering who is a practicing doctor during the weekends detailed how his nation contained contacts of  one tourists who tested positive to the virus. He praised King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck who took to the field in spreading awareness over the deadly virus.

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli who joined immediately after undergoing a surgery urged SAARC nations to help Nepal devise a sound and robust strategy to fight the COVID-19.

Zafar Mirza, State Minister of Health of Pakistan said that his nation too shares concern over potential of COVID-19 affecting South Asia.

India has offered to train the front line medical staff of SAARC nations to deal with the pandemic, and also offered testing kits, doctors to nations at their disposal.

PM Modi also suggested to set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted. “We could share this Disease Surveillance software with SAARC partners, and training on using this,” he said.

The number of coronavirus cases in the Southeast Asian nations surpassed 150. India reported 109 cases, the most number of positive cases in the region.