Pak ready to participate in PM Modi’s proposed video conference of SAARC on strategy to fight Coronavirus

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - Pakistan responded positively to Modi’s proposal, saying it was ready to participate in the conference, acknowledging that coordinated efforts were needed to minimise the threat posed by the deadly Coronavirus.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the eight-member regional grouping South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on Friday  and pitched for a video conference among the leaders to chalk out a strong strategy to combat Coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan too agreed with the proposal and has said it will participate in the video conference to combat the fast-spreading pandemic that has killed over 5,000 people globally.

PM Modi in a tweet on Friday, asked SAARC leaders to come together and try every possible means to contain the outbreak in South Asia which is home to a significant portion of the planet.

Pakistan responded positively to Modi’s proposal, saying it was ready to participate in the conference, acknowledging that coordinated efforts were needed to minimise the threat posed by the deadly Coronavirus.

“We have communicated that SAPM (Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister) on Health (Zafar Mirza) will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue,” Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a tweet on Friday.

In Pakistan Mirza is leading the country’s campaign against the virus.

Four SAARC nations on Friday promised support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal of joint strategy to combat the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus. Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal had endorsed PM Modi’s proposal to devise a strategy to take on the Coronavirus pandemic which has affected over 100 countries across the globe.

PM Modi’s suggestion was backed by all member states of SAARC later. All the leaders of the grouping welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposal. Pakistan’s response to the proposal came late in the night.

In a series of tweets, Modi said,”our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it. South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population should leave no stone unturned to ensure our people are healthy.”

PM Modi in yet another tweet said, “I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy. Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.”

Speaking on Modi’s call, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering had said: “This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome.”

Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa too expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for taking the initiative and said his country is ready to join the discussion and share their learning and best practices as well as to learn from other SAARC members. “Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe,” the leader added.

President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the step towards battling Coronavirus. “COVID19 requires collective effort to defeat it. Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort,” Solih said.

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli  also had welcomed the idea advanced by PM Modito chalk out a strong strategy by the leadership of SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. “My government is ready to work closely with SAARC member states to protect our citizens from this deadly disease,” he said.

The novel Coronavirus originated in China’s Wuhan city in December last year with the country remaining the worst-hit with 3,189 deaths and 80,824 confirmed cases of infection.

In Pakistan, so far and 28 cases of Coronavirus have been reported and no death has been reported.

Pakistan’s high-powered National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday took several decision to boost efforts to defeat the threat posed by the virus.Among other things, it decided to close down the western border with Afghanistan and Iran.

According to NSC, the Kartarpur corridor will remain open for Indian pilgrims, but has been closed for Pakistani visitors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday characterised the COVID-19 outbreak as a “pandemic” and expressed deep concern over its “alarming levels” of “spread, severity, as well as inaction”.

The Union Health ministry in India put the number of positive cases at 82, eight more since Thursday night, which includes the woman and the deceased man from Karnataka, besides 17 foreign nationals.

Cases of the infection have been reported from at least 11 states and territories, including Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala, where three patients were discharged last month after they recovered. Also, another seven from Safdarjung hospital have also recovered.

Addressing reporters on Friday, officials said Coronavirus — a pandemic that has infected 1,31,500 people in 116 countries and territories and killed more than 4,900 — is not a health emergency and there is no need to panic.

(With inputs from PTI)

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