Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for cooperation between all countries in the SAARC region to combat coronavirus, and proposed the creation of a Covid-19 emergency fund with India making an initial contribution of $10 million.

“So far, our region has listed fewer than 150 cases. But we need to remain vigilant. Our SAARC region is home to nearly one-fifth of all humanity. It is densely populated. 

“As developing countries, all of us have significant challenges in terms of access to healthcare facilities,” said Modi in his opening remarks at the video conference of leaders from the eight-member grouping on Sunday.

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Research platform

The PM also proposed the creation of a common research platform to carry out research to control epidemic diseases in the region.

Noting that some SAARC countries had made specific requests for medicines and equipment, Modi said his team has made a careful note of it and that India will do its best for its neighbours.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa proposed a ministerial group of SAARC members to discuss and share best practices and coordinate regional matters on combating the coronavirus.

Others who participated in the video conference included Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Minister of State for Health Zafar Mirza.

Modi had reached out to the SAARC members on Friday and proposed a video conference among the leaders to work out a joint strategy to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

He thanked Oli for joining the video conference almost immediately after his recent surgery.