New Delhi: India on Monday said it was “encouraging that" countries in South Asia had pledged contributions to a fund created to fight the spread of the Coronavirus in the region bringing the total in the kitty to $18.3 million.
As a follow-up to a video link summit among the leaders of India, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan held on 15 March, India has also proposed a “video conference of senior health professionals of SAARC countries….to be held on 26 March 2020 to exchange experiences of combating the spread of Covid-19 thus far, including on specific protocols dealing with screening at entry points, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation facilities," an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
With Sri Lanka on Monday committing $5 million for the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Covid-19 emergency Fund, all countries of the region barring Pakistan have announced their contributions to the pool.
“In the spirit of collaboration, contributions have also been committed by Sri Lanka ($5 million), Bangladesh ($1.5 million), Nepal ($1 million), Afghanistan ($1 million), Maldives ($200,000) and Bhutan ($100,000) taking the total amount in the Covid-19 Emergency Fund to $18.3 million. It truly reflects the deeply shared sense of determination in the participating countries to act together," the Indian foreign ministry statement said.
The SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund was announced on 15 March when prime minister Narendra Modi addressed a conference of SAARC heads of government via video link from New Delhi. Modi had then announced the SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund stating that contributions to it would be voluntary. India on its part had announced it would contribute $10 million as an initial contribution.
The Indian statement on Monday said the number of Covid-19 infections was steadily on the rise “further reinforcing the need for all to act in fullest solidarity to address the challenge and mitigate its impact".
“The Fund has been operationalized and the requirements of urgent medical supplies and equipment in individual countries in the region are being met through this fund," the statement said. The website aims to disseminate “reliable information and updates on the evolving situation relating to COVID-19 in the region, and best practices being followed in member countries," the statement said.
The video conference of SAARC senior health professionals would have discussions on practical on online training capsules for emergency response teams, setting up of an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal, creation of a Common Research Platform and coordination of research on controlling epidemics within the South Asian region, the Indian statement said.
“It is India’s belief that sharing of resources, expertise, best practices and capacities in these challenging times would go a long way in bringing the countries in the SAARC region closer together," the Indian statement added.