With India leading the battle against the global pandemic Coronavirus (COVID19), Prime Minister Modi, on Sunday, addressed a SAARC video conference to share each other efforts and issues as the seven countries battle the pandemic. The video conference was led by PM Modi and was attended by Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, Maldives President Ibrahim Solih, Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutan Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's assistant - Dr Zafar Mirza. PM Modi highlighted the SAARC's ancient ties and said that 'we must work and succeed together'.
"COVID19 has recently been classified as a pandemic by WHO. So far, our SAARC region has listed fewer than 150 cases, but we need to remain vigilant. SAARC region is home to almost 1/5th of humanity and is densely populated. As developing countries, we have significant challenges on access to health care facilities, but our societies are deeply connected and we must sit together, work together and succeed together," he said.
Chalking out a plan to combat the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus with SAARC leaders. https://t.co/l9H0Nidn6a— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 15, 2020
Sharing India's pre-emptive and current efforts to battle the epidemic he said that one must 'Prepare, don't panic' while dealing with the situation. Talking about the screening process started in India, by mid-January, he said that India has been able to expand its testing capacity from 1 centre to 66 labs. He also briefed on the step-by-step protocols adopted by India to screen, trace, isolate and discharge the suspect cases.
"Let me share India's efforts to combat the spread of the virus so far."Prepare, but don’t panic” has been our guiding mantra. We were careful to not underestimate the problem and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. We have tried to take proactive measures to combat the spread and started screening entry into India by mid-January itself while gradually increasing restrictions on travel. The step-by-step approach helped avoid panic and made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups," he said.
He added, "We have worked to quickly ramp up the capacity in our system by training medical staff and increasing diagnostic abilities. Within 2 months, we have moved from 1 major facility for pan-India testing to 66 such labs and have developed protocols for each stage to tackle this pandemic. First - screening at entry points, then contact tracing at suspected cases, quarantine and management of isolation facilities and discharge of cleared cases."
Talking about the aid offered by India to its neighbours. he said that the country had transported its neighbours' citizens from the coronavirus-hit countries. He said that India has also briefed countries of their citizens in India who were suspected of the disease. He urged all members to share their efforts and experience to help each other.
"India also responded to call of its people abroad and we evacuated nearly 1,400 Indians from different countries. India also helped some citizens of neighbouring countries by evacuating them from coronavirus-hit nations. We have initiated protocol for our mobile testing abroad. We recognise that other countries may be concerned about their citizens in India, hence we briefed the foreign embassies on the steps taken. We know that we are in an unknown situation and do not know how it will unfold inspite of our best efforts. Hence I look forward to hearing to your experience too," he said.
As of date, the total number of positive cases in India has risen upto 107, with two deaths in the country. 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. India has also closed the India-Pakistan border and restricted passenger movement at the border with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Myanmar. The government is monitoring all suspected cases and issued preventive advisories - visit the official government here: MINISTRY OF HEALTH & FAMILY WELFARE