Need to create common framework for telemedicine to combat coronavirus: Ashraf Ghani tells SAARC nations

New Delhi [India], Mar 15 (ANI): Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday urged the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations to create a common framework for telemedicine as part of the region's efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking via video conferencing with participants from all SAARC member countries, Ghani put forth five proposals for combatting the virus that has infected nearly 150 people in the region.

Ghani further said that the closing of borders amid coronavirus concerns will result in significant problems regarding the availability of medicine and basic goods.

"As a landlocked country -- which is simultaneously the heart of Asia -- the closing of the border will result in significant problems regarding availability of medicine and basic goods. We (need to) coordinate to be able to create controlled flows, that, both, allows transactions to take place while focusing on the essentials," said Ghani.

The Afghan President further said: "Since India is both a very important member of the SAARC and a member of Shanghai Cooperation, it can coordinate between SAARC and Shanghai Cooperation and share how much experience of China is replicable to our situation and how do we learn from their experience."

The video conference had been proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an aim to chalk out a joint strategy to fight coronavirus. The proposal was welcomed and endorsed by all SAARC nations and the conference was held for today.

In his address on the occasion, Modi said that the SAARC regions must prepare, act, and succeed together to defeat the pandemic.

"As developing nations, all of us have significant challenges in terms of access to health care facilities. Our people-to-people ties are ancient and our society deeply interconnected. We must all prepare, act, and succeed together," Modi said.

He stressed the importance of vigilance since the region is densely populated.

"COVID-19 has recently been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a pandemic. So far, our SAARC region has listed fewer than 150 cases but we need to remain vigilant. SAARC region is home to nearly 1/5 of all humanity. It is densely populated," said Modi.

Prime Minister Modi briefed the SAARC member countries about India's experience of combating the spread of coronavirus so far.

"Prepare, but don't panic has been our guiding mantra. 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. We have made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups," he said.

The Prime Minister said that "we have worked to quickly ramp up capacity in our system including through training our medical staff across the country. We have also increased diagnostic capabilities. Within two months, we moved from one major facility for pan-India testing."

Modi said that the country has developed protocols for each stage of managing the pandemic.

"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," he said.

Underlining the concern of other countries for their citizens in India, Modi said that the foreign ambassadors are being updated about the situation in the country on a regular basis.

"We cannot predict with certainty how the situation will unfold despite our best efforts. You must also be facing similar concern," he said. (ANI)