March 16, 2020: Leaders of Association of South Asian Regional Cooperation through a video link conference on Sunday called for called upon collaborated and joint efforts to overcome the pandemic.
Debating the situation arising after the spread of coronavirus in the region, they shared views for formulating a joint strategy to cope with the pandemic.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed creating a voluntary Covid-19 emergency fund in which India will contribute 10 million dollars as well as training of the 'medical response team' for SAARC countries.
Speaking at the conference, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said the regional countries should reach out to specialized development partners including WHO for mobilization for technical advice and resources.
Dr Zafar Iqbal Mirza said COVID-19 has been characterized as a global pandemic, but at the same time it is deemed controllable, provided timely and appropriate public health measures are put in place.
He said Pakistan has been involved in the containment efforts right from the outset of the outbreak.
He said we have been alert to the dangers and have put in place appropriate public health measures and developed required protocols and guidelines for the safety of our citizens.
The Special Assistant said if our health systems, disease surveillance system and preventive measures are unable to cope with the human and economic cost alone can be staggering.
The region-wise growth process will also be affected. National agendas will be harmed.
Dr Zafar Mirza said unprecedented challenge demands an unprecedented response and we must recognize that the national and local responses still remain the key and most critical.
He proposed that the SAARC secretariat is the best place to coordinate at the regional level, which should be mandated by establishing a working group of national authorities for health information and data exchange as well as coordination for global responses in real-time.
He said that Pakistan would like to reiterate its earlier proposal of hosting the SAARC health ministers' conference at an appropriate time. He said the regional countries should reach out to specialized development partners including WHO for mobilization for technical advice and resources.
Winding up the debate, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed creating a voluntary Covid-19 emergency fund in which India will contribute 10 million dollars as well as training of the 'medical response team' for SAARC countries.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina Wajid, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, and Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering also shared their views through video conference and called upon collaborated and joint efforts to overcome the pandemic.
Dr Zafar Mirza also expressed Pakistan's concerns over reports of COVID-19 from Occupied Kashmir.
He demanded that all lockdowns in the disputed territory must be lifted immediately, opening up communications and movement and enable containment and relief efforts.
Regarding a point raised by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about the closure of border crossings, he said Pakistan has done this temporarily to reinforce its points of entry and land crossings in light of WHO guidelines and steps being implemented by regional states to contain the spread of the virus.
He assured the Afghan President that it is a temporary measure and Pakistan remains cognizant of Afghanistan's needs and requirements and essential supplies, including food and medicines will be allowed through requisite surveillance and screening mechanisms.