Dhaka – South Asian leaders have called for creating emergency fund to collectively fight the global coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 5,000 people and infected over 120,000 others.
Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation at a video meeting from their respective capital came to this agreement on Sunday as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated the move amid the outbreak of the pathogen, which was first reported in China in December.
The pathogen is also being spread in the South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – slowly while Europe and America are among the most affected continents now.
Modi offered 10 million dollars to kick-start the emergency fund to counter the virus in the region. He proposed for voluntary contribution from each of the members of the SAARC.
“We are assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists in India, along with testing kits and other equipment. They will be on stand-by, to be placed at your disposal, if required,” Modi told the video conferencing.
India also set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted, he said.
“We could share this Disease Surveillance software with SAARC partners, and training on using this,” he said.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for strong collaboration among SAARC nations in devising a collective strategy and mobilise resources in combating coronavirus.
“We need to devise a strong SAARC-wide strategy to combat this public health threat and to protect our citizens,” she said.
She suggested that the SAARC secretariat could coordinate the regional collaboration on the coronavirus for the safety of the people in the region.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli also took part in the videoconference.
Pakistan’s State Minister for Health Zafar Mirza represented Islamabad in the summit.
Hasina assured Bangladesh’s readiness to share its capacity and expertise, as well as the best practices with the SAARC countries, including providing logistic support, if required.
She proposed for establishing an institution in Bangladesh to prevent and fight against any public health threats in the South Asian Region in future.
“We believe it is extremely important to establish an Institution to prevent and fight against any public health threats in the South Asian Region in future and Bangladesh will be happy to host such an institution if you all kindly agree,” Hasina said.