In a bid to fight the coronavirus pandemic, a video conference took place between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations on March 15, 2020.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed leaders of SAARC nations saying, "We recognise we are in an unknown situation and can not predict with certainty how the situation will unfold further. It will be most valuable for all us to share our perspectives."
The PM added that special efforts have been made by India in order to reach out to vulnerable groups. The medical staff has been trained and capacity has been ramped up. From mid-January, people entering India have been screened and gradual restrictions on travel have been imposed. The step-by-step approach has helped avoid panic. "Prepare, but don't panic has been our guiding mantra", he added.
According to the Health Ministry, 23 new cases were detected on Saturday in India.
Key takeaways from PM Modi's video conference
In his opening address, Prime Minister Modi said that COVID-19 has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Though, India has listed less than 150 cases but staying vigilant is needed. Modi added, "I propose that we create a COVID-19 emergency fund. India can start by contributing $10 million."
The SAARC conference came a day ahead of a similar conference requested by France for the G-7 countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
All the member states supported Modi's proposed formulation of a joint strategy. PM Modi said that coronavirus can be best responded to by working together and not growing apart.
Zafar Mirza, Pakistan PM's Special Assistant on Health, said, "No nation can afford to be unresponsive to situation in wake of coronavirus outbreak."
Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering said, "Important for all of us to be on same page to combat coronavirus."
Nepal PM K P Sharma Oli said, "Our collective efforts will help us devise a sound and robust strategy for SAARC region to fight coronavirus."
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina said, "Health ministers of SAARC nations can hold video conference to discuss specific issues related to COVID-19."
Lankan President Rajapaksa said, "I propose setting up of SAARC ministerial-level group to deal with issues related to coronavirus."