Pakistan said it will participate in a video conference of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed at tackling the coronavirus outbreak Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui tweeted on late Friday that Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan (SAPM) on Health, Zafar Mirza, will be available for the conference as coronavirus requires coordinated efforts at the global and regional level.
"The threat of COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at the global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue," Farooqui said. Pakistan's response came hours after PM Modi proposed that the leaders of the SAARC countries should chalk out a joint strategy to fight coronavirus pandemic which has killed over 5,000 people globally.
The SAARC is a regional intergovernmental organisation that comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. "I would like to propose that the leadership of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy," the Prime Minister tweeted on Friday.
On Friday, the government of Afghanistan welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal for the SAARC nations to jointly chalk out a strategy to tackle the novel coronavirus. This was confirmed by Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesperson of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. PM Modi contended that such a collaboration would set an example for the rest of the world. Acknowledging the PM’s appeal, Tahir Qadri, Afghanistan’s envoy to India highlighted the importance of nations being united at this juncture. Including Pakistan now, all other SAARC members have responded positively to India’s initiative.
Similarly, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal to the members of SAARC. Rajapaksa took to Twitter to thank PM Modi for the “great initiative” and urged everyone to united in solidarity in the face of a global pandemic.
First detected in Wuhan in December 2019, COVID-19- the novel coronavirus has affected nearly 118 countries in the world. Presently, there are 1,32,536 confirmed cases of COVID-19 which has led to the death of 4,947 people. As there is no vaccine or specific antiviral medicine to deal to treat COVID-19, countries have been grappling with all possible mechanisms to contain its scope. So far, China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran have witnessed the most number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as 'pandemic'. Meanwhile, India has suspended all visas, barring for a few categories such as diplomatic and employment apart from keeping in abeyance the visa-free travel facility to OCI cardholders till April 15. Moreover, the Centre has “strongly advised” Indians to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. So far, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India is 88, officially more than any other SAARC member nation.
(with ANI inputs)