Coronavirus: PM Modi tells SAARC nations to be vigilant

New Delhi: In the wake of spread of coronavirus or COVID-19 disease, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday suggested to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member nations to be vigilant despite the number of affected people in the region at not more than 150.

The Prime Minister gave the suggestion to the SAARC member nations through a video-conference which aims to promote the World Health Organisation’s advice to avoid public gathering declaring the disease a pandemic. “As we all know, COVID-19 has recently been classified by WHO as a pandemic. So far, our region has listed fewer than 150 cases. But we need to remain vigilant,” he said.

Initiating the video conferencing, Modi shared India’s experience of combating the spread of this virus so far and said “prepare, but don’t panic” has been our guiding mantra. The Prime Minister said that we started screening entry into India from mid-January itself, while also gradually increasing restrictions on travel.

“The step-by-step approach has helped avoid panic.” Modi said. He said that India has made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups and has worked to quickly ramp up capacity in its system including through training of medical staff.

“We also responded to the call of our people abroad. We evacuated nearly 1,400 Indians from different countries. We also similarly helped some of the citizens of our neighbouring countries.”

“We must all work together and must succeed together. We are still in an unknown situation,” Modi said.

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Bhutanese Premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani participated in the conference. On behalf of Pakistan, its Minister of State for Health Dr Zafar Mirza attended the video conference.

The conference was organised following Prime Minister Modi’s proposal on Friday seeking formulation of a joint strategy by SAARC member nations to control and monitor the Covid-19 outbreak which originated in China’s Wuhan city in December last year and has killed over 5,000 people and infected more than 1.50 lakh people globally.

China remains the worst-hit with 3,189 deaths and 80,824 confirmed cases of infection. No death has been reported in Pakistan while two persons have died in India due to the disease. So far, 28 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Pakistan and there are 107 confirmed cases in India.

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