New Delhi [India], Mar 15 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday proposed the creation of an emergency fund for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations to combat the coronavirus pandemic and pitched India's initial offer of USD 10 million for this fund.
"I propose we create a COVID-19 emergency fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of USD 10 million for this fund," PM Modi said at a video conference with participants from the SAARC nations.
The Prime Minister said the funds could be used by any SAARC nations to meet the cost of immediate actions.
"Our Foreign Secretaries, through our embassies can coordinate quickly to finalise the utilisation of this fund. We are assembling a rapid response team of doctors and specialists in India along with testing kits and other equipment. They will be on the standby to be placed at your disposal if required," Modi said.
"We can also quickly arrange online training capsules for your emergency response teams. This will be based on the model we have used in our own country to raise the capacity of all our emergency staff," Modi said.
The Prime Minister said that India could share with the SAARC partners its disease surveillance software which helps trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted.
"We had set up an integrated disease surveillance portal to better trace possible virus carries and the people they contacted. We could share this disease surveillance software with our SAARC partners and training on using these," he said.
"Let us also use the existing facilities like the SAARC disaster management centre to pull in the best practices among all of us," Modi said.
The Prime Minister proposed the creation of a common research platform to coordinate research on controlling epidemic disease within the South Asian region.
"The Indian Council of Medical Research can offer help coordinating certain exercises. We can also ask our experts to brainstorm on the longer-term economic consequences of COVID-19," Modi said.
PM Modi remarked that the nations can respond best to the pandemic "by coming together and not growing apart."
"We all agree that we are facing a serious challenge. We do not know what shape the pandemic will take in the coming days. It is clear that we have to work together. We can respond best by coming together and not growing apart. Collaboration, not confusion. Preparation, not panic," Modi said.
Modi said that the region should evolve common SAARC Pandemic Protocols, which could be applied on all borders as well as within the borders.
"This can help to prevent such infections from spreading across our region, and allow us to keep our internal movements free," Modi said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Modi on said the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries 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," 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)