Bangladesh and Nepal pledged to contribute $1.5 million and $1 million respectively to the SAARC Corona Emergency Fund proposed by PM Narendra Modi with an initial offer of $10 million from India to help combat the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the amount in favour of the SAARC Secretariat to combat the coronavirus in South Asia, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told PTI. He said Dhaka has communicated with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat as the fund transfer process was underway and sent a verbal note to New Delhi about the contribution.
India first announced to provide $10 million to the fund and subsequently Nepal and Afghanistan promised $1 million each and the Maldives and Bhutan committed $200,000 and 100,000 respectively.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka are yet to declare their contribution for the fund.
In a video conference on forming a joint strategy to fight COVID-19 in the SAARC region, Prime Minister Modi on March 15 proposed the emergency fund with an initial offer of $10 million from India and asserted that the best way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was by coming together, and not growing apart.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Momen said that during the video conference, Prime Minister Hasina suggested that the SAARC Secretariat could coordinate the regional collaboration on the coronavirus to secure the people in the region from the pandemic.
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He said various funds were there under different SARRC protocols like tackling natural disaster and ensuring food security but "unfortunately no such protocol was there to prevent health hazards" until the virtual summit was held.
Founded in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation and geopolitical union of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Apart from Modi, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister Oli, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza, participated in the conference.
In a related development, a Bangladeshi High Court bench on Sunday ordered authorities to procure sufficient personal protective equipment (PPEs) and ensure their smooth supply to doctors, nurses and staff at all hospitals and clinics across the country to prevent the spread of the virus.
The bench directed the health ministry to immediately form an advisory committee to prepare a list of necessary equipment in the next 48 hours to tackle coronavirus.
The order read that in line with the list, the authorities would collect the equipment in the next seven days to be distributed among the doctors, nurses and hospital staff nationwide.
Healthcare officials, meanwhile, reported that three more persons were tested positive overnight for COVID-19 in Bangladesh, raising the total number of cases to 27 while the virus has so far killed two persons.