India's PM Narendra Modi, leaders and representatives from SAARC nations participate in video conference meet to chalk out strategy to fight coronavirus where Modi said 'prepare, but don't panic' has been India's guiding mantra in dealing with the virus outbreak.
"Our region has reported less than 150 coronavirus cases, but we need to remain vigilant." said PM Modi at SAARC video conference.
"Step-by-step approach helped avoid panic, made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups," the PM further said.
"We started screening people entering India from mid-January itself, while gradually increasing restrictions on travel," said Modi. Modi proposed to the SAARC leaders of creating a Covid-19 emergency fund, which could be based on voluntary contributions from all the SAARC countries.
Speaking about India's preparedness for the outbreak, Modi said, "We will set up disease surveillance portal to better trace possible virus carriers and can share disease surveillance software with SAARC. We are assembling Rapid Response Team of doctors, specialists in India, along with testing kits, they will be ready for deployment."
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani proposed common framework for tele-medicine to combat coronavirus. Ghani welcomed the initiatives suggested by PM Modi and called for nations to keep an eye on the evolving situation due to coronavirus.
"India also responded to call of its people abroad, we evacuated nearly 1,400 Indians from different countries," said Modi.
India helped some citizens of neighbouring countries by evacuating them from coronavirus-hit nations, said Modi.
"No nation can afford to be unresponsive to situation in wake of coronavirus outbreak," said Pakistan PM's Special Assistant on Health Zafar Mirza.
"We share common regional concerns on COVID-19; while hoping for best, we have to prepare for worst," said Mirza. Pakistan raised Kashmir during the SAARC video conference and said all restrictions should be lifted in J&K to deal with coronavirus threat.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih backs coordinated approach to deal with Covid-19, says no country can deal with the situation alone.
Ibrahim Solih thanked PM Modi for regional initiative to combat Covid-19 challenge and welcomed PM Modi's suggestion of setting up a Covid-19 emergency fund.
SAARC leaders should formulate mechanism for our economies to tide over problems posed by coronavirus, said Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
"I propose setting up of SAARC ministerial-level group to deal with issues related to coronavirus," said Rajapaksa. He said many lessons will be learnt from sharing of experiences and thanked Modi for offering assistance to SAARC nations.
"Health ministers of SAARC nations can hold video conference to discuss specific issues related to COVID-19," said Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. She called for continued dialogue between experts and officials on follow-up actions regarding Covid-19.
"Our collective efforts will help us devise a sound and robust strategy for SAARC region to fight coronavirus," said Nepal PM K.P. Sharma Oli. He underlined importance of effective mobilisation to control spread of coronavirus.
"Important for all of us to be on same page to combat coronavirus," said Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering.
"It is clear we have to work together; we can respond best to coronavirus by coming together, not growing apart," said PM Modi to the SAARC representatives.