Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the Saarc videoconference on coronavirus today(PTI Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the Saarc videoconference on coronavirus today(PTI Photo)

Five things to know about the COVID 19 Saarc video conference

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will represent India for the conference, which will also be attended by seven other member states of the south Asian grouping including at least two heads of states
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 15, 2020 05:18 PM IST

The videoconference between the leader of Saarc nations to evolve a joint strategy to fight coronavirus will be telecast live on youtube on Sunday evening beginning 5 pm, said government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will represent India for the conference, which will also be attended by seven other member states of the south Asian grouping including at least two heads of states—Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Pakistan PM’s special assistant on health matters will represent Islamabad.

“People in SAARC countries will tune in to watch their Leaders discuss strategy to fight COVID-19. You should tune in too,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the foreign ministry.

Here are five important things to know about the COVID-19 Saarc videoconference

1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi mooted the idea for a video conferencing among Saarc member states first on Friday. His proposal was met with a swift response.

2. This will be the first meeting of the Saarc member states after the 2014 summit held in Nepal’s Kathmandu. However, it is not an official Saarc Summit.

3. The meeting is important, since in the last three years India has distanced itself from the Saarc citing security challenges to the region from terror networks based in Pakistan.

4. Coronavirus has led to two deaths in India and the total number of confirmed infections stands at 107 as per the government data.

5. 34 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Pakistan and there have been no deaths so far due to the disease. According to latest media reports, Pakistan has around 2,000 isolation beds and seven diagnostic labs capable of doing 15,000 tests. Chief of WHO in Pakistan has pointed out the need for more diagnostic facilities in case the infections spike. Islamabad has shut down its western border with Afghanistan and Iran.

6. Afghanistan has reported 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus and has announced restrictions to contain the spread including shutting down educational institutions.

7. Positive cases in Sri Lanka have risen to 10 and the government announced two-week long restrictions on mass gatherings, which now require permission from the police, according to the country’s health ministry.

8. Positive cases in Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal haven’t reached double digits yet.

Prime Minister’s appeal for videoconferencing for a joint strategy for the region was made on Thursday and received a prompt response from Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, and the Afghan government, all of them welcomed the proposal.

Several heads of state also praised the Prime Minister for taking the initiative.

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