SAARC leaders have pledged to fight the COVID-19 pandemic together.
Coming together for the first time after the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in 2014, the leaders during the video conferencing proposed by Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi Friday evening pledged to fight the scourge together.
Modi, PM KP Sharma Oli, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina, and Special Assistant to Pakistani PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza also participated in the video conferencing that continued for around 90 minutes.
Oli briefed the SAARC leaders about the measures adopted by Nepal against the spread of COVID-19 during the video conferencing.
Oli, who is also the chair of SAARC, shared that Nepal has extended the capacity of the hospitals while making preparations for isolation wards to avert the possible outbreak of the Covid-19 as well as postponed international seminars and programs scheduled in Nepal.
He further stated that the on-arrival visas have been cancelled and different committees are in force in federal and local levels to adopt joint efforts to prevent its possible outbreak. He assured that Nepal was alert to not let spread the coronavirus.
Modi proposed to create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund during the video conferencing. "It is clear that we have to work together. We can respond best by – Coming together not growing apart; Collaboration not Confusion; Preparation not Panic," Modi said addressing the conference.
"I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of 10 million US dollars for this fund."
Afghan President Ghani welcomed the initiatives by Modi and suggested all countries should keep a close focus on the next months on the evolving situation.
Maldivian President Solih also welcomed Modi's proposal while Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa said that many lessons were learnt from sharing of experiences in the video conference and thanked Modi for offering assistance like testing kits to regional countries.
Bangladeshi PM Hasina also thanked Modi for taking initiative for the video conference, discussion on various new ideas and calls for continued dialogue between the experts and officials on follow-up actions.
Bhutanese PM Tshering also welcomed setting up of COVID Relief Fund and acknowledged the contribution of health care professionals in combating the virus.
Special Assistant to Pakistani PM on Health Mirza called for sustained pro-active actions on behalf of member countries to combat the spread of virus. He also raised the Kashmir issue demanding that all restrictions in Kashmir be lifted to tackle COVID-19.