PM for constructive talks among SAARC countries to battle coronavirus

MNA Editorial Desk: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina welcomed her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s proposal on strategies to battle coronavirus in SAARC region and said will look forward to a constructive dialogue with other heads of states of the region as well.

“I hope this conference will show a new path to all of us in tackling the coronavirus,” added Sheikh Hasina.

She also said the health ministers and secretaries can also have a similar conference to discuss the technicalities of the response to the coronavirus.

Hasina made the remarks at a video conference with SAARC member countries to chalk out a strong common strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region on Sunday.

Indian Prime Minister led the discussion at the video conference which was organised by Indian High Commission in Dhaka.

The videoconference began from New Delhi at 5:30pm (Bangladesh time), as per reports by agencies.

Sheikh Hasina, in addition, proposed that an institution be established to prevent and fight any public health threat in the South Asian region in future.

“We believe it’s extremely important to establish an institution to prevent and fight against any public health threat in the South Asian region in future…. Bangladesh will be happy to host such institution if you all kindly agree,” said the Bangladesh PM.

Modi, at the conference, laid emphasis on staying vigilant saying they must succeed together as the countries are still in an unknown situation.

“So far, our region has listed fewer than 150 cases. But we need to remain vigilant,” he said.

Modi briefly shared India’s experience of combating the spread of this virus so far as they prepare to face this challenge.

“Prepare, but don’t panic” has been our guiding mantra,” said Modi.

He said they started screening entry into India from mid-January itself, while also gradually increasing restrictions on travel.

The step-by-step approach has helped avoid panic, Modi said adding, “We’ve made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups.”

The Indian PM said they have worked to quickly ramp up capacity in their system, including through training their medical staff across the country

“We also responded to the call of our people abroad. We evacuated nearly 1,400 Indians from different countries. We also similarly helped some of the citizens of our neighbourhood countries,” Modi said.

COVID-19 has recently been classified by WHO as a pandemic.

Modi thanked all for joining this special interaction at a short notice.

“I specially thank our friend Prime Minister Oli who has joined us almost immediately after his recent surgery,” he said.

On Friday, Narendra Modi proposed a strong strategy by member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to fight the coronavirus threat in South Asian region.

“I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus. We could discuss, via videoconferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy,” Modi said.

“Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet,” he twitted at 1:47pm on Friday on his official Twitter page.

In another tweet, at the same time, Modi said, “Our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it.”

“South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure our people are healthy,” he said.

The Indian Prime Minister called for the joint strategy a day after the first case of death from COVID-19 in India was reported on Thursday.

Modi also proposed a coronavirus emergency fund for SAARC member countries and made an initial offer of $10 million on behalf of his nation to add to the fund.

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Zafar Mirza, special assistant on health to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, represented their country.


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