New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday joined in a video conference along with leaders and representatives from SAARC nations to chalk out a joint strategy to fight the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 5,000 people worldwide. Also Read - 'Prepare, But Don't Panic' Has Been India's Mantra in Tackling Coronavirus: PM Modi Tells SAARC Leaders
While PM Modi led the conference, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza shared their thoughts in the video conference. Also Read - Coronavirus Video Conference of SAARC Countries on PM Modi's Proposal: What to Expect
In the inaugural address, Prime Minister Modi said his country has reported less than 150 coronavirus cases, but all need to remain vigilant. “Prepare, but don’t panic has been India’s guiding mantra in dealing with coronavirus outbreak,” he said, adding, “We started screening people entering India from mid-January itself, while gradually increasing restrictions on travel.” Also Read - Coronavirus: Total 109 Cases Reported From India; Over 6000 Dead Globally
Sharing his ideas, Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli said that the collective efforts will help devise a sound and robust strategy for SAARC region to fight coronavirus.
“I would like to thank PM Modi ji for taking this important and timely initiative. Our collective wisdom and efforts will help us devise a sound and robust strategy for the SAARC region as we fight COVID19,” he said.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that health ministers, health secretaries and health experts of respective SAARC countries should hold this kind of video conferences to discuss specific areas of cooperation.
“To continue this dialogue at the technical level, our Health Ministers, Health Secretaries and health experts should also hold this kind of video conferences to discuss specific areas of cooperation,” Hasina said.
She also thanked PM Modi for taking this initiative of holding the video conference to make a strategy for dealing with the coronavirus. “I thank PM Modi for taking this initiative. I also thank him for bringing and hosting 23 of our students from Wuhan (China) along with Indian students,” Hasina said.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the economy of his country has taken a serious blow. He also urged the member countries to formulate a mechanism to assist his country’s economy.
“Our economy has taken a serious blow, particularly the tourism sector which was just recovering after last years’ terrorist attack. I strongly recommend SAARC leaders to formulate a mechanism to assist our economies to tide over a difficult period,” Rajapaksa said.
He also thanked PM Modi for taking the initiative to share ideas and to understand the challenges and discuss measures to tackle coronavirus. “First, I must thank PM Narendra Modi for initiating this to share our experiences, ideas, best practices and to understand the challenges and discuss measures to be taken,” Rajapaksa said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that all the member countries should create a common framework for tele-medicine to combat the coronavirus. “We should create a common framework for tele-medicine to combat coronavirus. The closing of borders will result in a significant problem of availability of food, medicines and basic goods,” he said.
He also added that since India is both a very imp member of SAARC and a member of Shanghai Cooperation, it can coordinate between SAARC and Shanghai Cooperation and share how much experience of China is replicable to our situation and how do we learn from their experience.
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that his country is fortunate to have received general assistance from India and he thanked PM Modi and people of India for the help.
“I too will begin by thanking PM Modi for this timely call for the regional initiative to combat the increasing threat of coronavirus. No country on its own can succeed in combating the virus,” he said.
Zafar Mirza, State Minister of Health of Pakistan said that his country has decided to close all educational institutions for 3 weeks. “Close the entire western border for 2 weeks, restrict international flights to 3 airports only and to ban all large public gatherings,” he said.
Zafar Mirza further added that Pakistan shares common concern over the potential of COVID-19 affecting South Asia. “All our countries have confirmed cases. There is no room for any complacency. While hoping for the best we have to be prepared for the worst,” he added.
Bhutan PM Lotay Tshering said, “I think it is very timely and would like to thank PM Modi for his excellent leadership to bring all of us together because togetherness is required at all times but when the world is fighting one common disease, it is very imp to leave behind our differences.”
Calling on the SAARC nations to set an example for the world, Modi had reached out to the eight-member regional grouping and pitched for a video-conference among its leaders to chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus. The deadly coronavirus has reportedly killed more than 5,000 people globally.