No country can combat COVID-19 pandemic on its own: Maldives President

New Delhi [India], Mar 15 (ANI): Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Sunday said that one country cannot succeed in combating the coronavirus pandemic on its own, saying the SAARC members come together "in times of crisis."

"In times of crisis, we do come together ... No country on its own can succeed in combating the virus. It requires a shared responsibility at an unprecedented scale," Solih said in a video conference with all SAARC member countries.

The President of Maldives also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a "timely call for regional initiative" to combat the "increasing threat of COVID-19" in the SAARC region.

"In 2003, for example, when the region faced the threat of SARS, the Maldives took the initiative and hosted an extraordinary meeting of SAARC Health Ministers that adopted a regional common strategy for tackling the virus," Solih said.

"The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Maldives on March 7. To date, there are 13 confirmed cases and fortunately no death so far. Since January this year, Maldives has been taking steps for a possible outbreak. Our priority now is to use precautionary measures to contain the virus as much as possible so as not to overburden our limited resources," he added.

Solih said that the unique geography of Maldives always presents itself as both an opportunity and a challenge as the "dispersed islands make it easier to isolate communities whenever there is a suspected case but, in the event that a person tests positive on the outer islands and is seriously ill requiring special care, the person has to be transported to the capital, which is extremely costly and puts enormous pressure on an overstretched team of healthcare workers."

He said that the Maldives is fortunate to have received general assistance from India and conveyed his government's appreciation to Prime Minister Modi and the people of India.

Earlier, Modi said that the countries that are members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should "prepare, act and succeed together" against COVID-19.

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