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Prepare, but don't panic: PM Modi proposes COVID-19 Emergency Fund, offers $10 million

Prepare, but dont panic: PM Modi proposes COVID-19 Emergency Fund, offers $10 million
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PM Narendra Modi interacts with members of Saarc countries via video conferencing over coronavirus in New Delhi on Sunday
Highlights

With India leading the battle against coronavirus, Prime Minister Modi on Sunday addressed a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) video conference to share each other's efforts and issues as the seven countries battle the pandemic.

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New Delhi: With India leading the battle against coronavirus, Prime Minister Modi on Sunday addressed a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) video conference to share each other's efforts and issues as the seven countries battle the pandemic.

The Prime Minister proposed a coronavirus emergency fund, which will be based on voluntary contributions from all Saarc members. India can start with an initial offer of US$10 million for this fund, Modi said.

The video conference was led by the Prime Minister and was attended by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, Maldives President Ibrahim Solih, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, Bhutan PM Lotay Tshering, Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli and Pakistan PM Imran Khan's assistant - Dr Zafar Mirza. Modi highlighted Saarc's ancient ties and said that 'we must work and succeed together'.

Sharing India's pre-emptive and current efforts to battle the pandemic, the Prime Minister said that one must 'Prepare, but don't panic' while dealing with the situation.

Talking about the screening process started in India, by mid-January, he said India has been able to expand its testing capacity from 1 centre to 66 labs. He also briefed on the step-by-step protocols adopted by India to screen, trace, isolate and discharge the suspect cases.

"As we all know, coronavirus has recently been classified by the World Health Organisation as a pandemic. So far, our region has listed fewer than 150 cases.

But we need to remain vigilant," the PM said. Speaking about India's preparedness for the outbreak, Modi said, "We will set up disease surveillance portal to better trace possible virus carriers and can share disease surveillance software with Saarc.

We are assembling Rapid Response Team of doctors, specialists in India, along with testing kits, they will be ready for deployment."

Afghan President Ghani proposed common framework for tele-medicine to combat coronavirus. Ghani welcomed the initiatives suggested by Modi and called for nations to keep an eye on the evolving situation due to coronavirus.

"India also responded to call of its people abroad, we evacuated nearly 1,400 Indians from different countries," said Modi. India helped some citizens of neighbouring countries by evacuating them from coronavirus-hit nations, said Modi.

"No nation can afford to be unresponsive to situation in wake of coronavirus outbreak," said Pakistan PM's Special Assistant on Health Zafar Mirza. "We share common regional concerns on COVID-19; while hoping for best, we have to prepare for worst," said Mirza.

Pakistan raised Kashmir during the Saarc video conference and said all restrictions should be lifted in J&K to deal with coronavirus threat.

Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih backs coordinated approach to deal with Covid-19, says no country can deal with the situation alone. He thanked PM Modi for regional initiative to combat Covid-19 challenge and welcomed PM Modi's suggestion of setting up a Covid-19 emergency fund.

Saarc leaders should formulate mechanism for our economies to tide over problems posed by coronavirus, said Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

"I propose setting up of Saarc ministerial-level group to deal with issues related to coronavirus," said Rajapaksa. He said many lessons will be learnt from sharing of experiences and thanked Modi for offering assistance to Saarc nations.

"Health ministers of Saarc nations can hold video conference to discuss specific issues related to COVID-19," said Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. She called for continued dialogue between experts and officials on follow-up actions regarding Covid-19.

"Our collective efforts will help us devise a sound and robust strategy for Saarc region to fight coronavirus," said Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli. He underlined importance of effective mobilisation to control spread of coronavirus.

"Important for all of us to be on same page to combat coronavirus," said Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering. "It is clear we have to work together; we can respond best to coronavirus by coming together, not growing apart," said Modi to the Saarc representatives.

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