The Kabul Times.
Health National

SAARC leaders discuss coordinated efforts to tackle COVID-19

By: The Kabul Times

KABUL: President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani joined SAARC leaders yesterday evening to discuss measures and efforts to contain the Covid-19 as well as approaches to prevent its further spread, via a videoconference initiated by Prime Minister Modi of India, a statement from the presidential palace said yesterday.
Prime Minister Modi delivered the opening remarks in the conference and extended congratulation to President Ghani on securing a second term in office. He said the Covid-19 is a pandemic disease in the region and stressed preventive measures and precautions need to be in full swing, calling for collective and sincere efforts by the SAARC members to contain the disease, the statement added.
The Indian Prime Minister vowed his country is prepared to proceed and adopt measures to provide health facilities and urge the SAARC member countries to collaborate on sharing experiences and practices together to enable them to deal with the pandemic disease, according to the statement.
President Ashraf Ghani said, “We are into unknown territory, and our vulnerability comes from our openness.” He underlined that the contagion impacts will particularly be on the poor and vulnerable, the presidential statement quoted.
The president added that the SAARC members need to jointly work and develop clear mechanisms to minimize the negative impacts of the disease on the societies.
The president offered his proposals namely modeling of diffusion impacts and scenarios for management, creating common framework for telemedicine, approaches to allow transactions between countries when borders are closed, and sharing experiences and preventive practices, the statement added.
“Modeling of diffusion impacts and scenarios for management—unless we model the diffusion, we would be facing assumptions from China or the United States or Iran,” the president said, adding that such models “are not suitable to our situation.” he continued, “I request a task force of SAARC to…do this.” 
President Ghani said, “Closing of borders while essential will result in significant problems regarding availability of medicines, food and basic goods.”
According to the statement, the president underscored the need to extend coordination and coherence among SAARC and SCO to allow exchange of experiences and data for coping with Covid-19 virus.
The Prime Minister of India recommended that a ‘Covid-19 Emergency Fund’ be established to enable joint fight against the spread of Covid-19 and declared that India will allocate 10 million dollars to the fund.
“I propose we create a Covid-19 emergency fund,” the Prime Minister said. “This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of $10 million for this fund. Any of us can use the fund to meet the cost of immediate actions. Our foreign secretaries, through our embassies, can coordinate quickly to finalize the concept of this fund and its operations.”
The SAARC leaders agreed that such videoconference should continue among the health ministers of the member countries as well as economic experts to analyze and evaluate the long-term impact and economic implications in the region.
President Ghani extended gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for the videoconference initiative and said the recent number of corona cases in Afghanistan is 16 and no death has been reported yet.
The president said, “Our greatest vulnerability is that we have open border with Iran,” where flow of refugees returning from Iran is a challenge for Afghanistan and the region. The president highlighted that Afghanistan intends to allocate its share in the Covid-19 Emergency Fund.
The president requested services of an “Indian satellite to be made available for distance education of Afghani youth and women to ensure necessary social distancing”.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also told SAARC leaders that Bangladesh will assist other SAARC nations in terms of logistics if required. All of the state leaders who took part in the discussion have agreed to use the SAARC Disaster Management Centre to identify and popularize best practices that will enable South Asia to safeguard itself against the pandemic.

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The Kabul Times.