Senior health professionals of SAARC nations will hold a video conference on Thursday to exchange experiences of combating the spread of coronavirus, including specific protocols in dealing with screening at entry points, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation facilities, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday.
The discussions in the conference are also proposed to include practical joint action on online training capsules for emergency response teams, setting up of an integrated disease surveillance portal, creation of a common research platform and coordination of research on controlling epidemics within the South Asian region, the MEA said in a statement.
At the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a video conference of SAARC leaders on combating COVID-19 was held on March 15.
As announced by the prime minister during the conference, India has since created a COVID-19 Emergency Fund with an initial offer of USD 10 million to meet the costs of immediate actions.
The fund has been operationalised and the requirements of urgent medical supplies and equipment in individual countries in the region are being met through it, the MEA said.
Sri Lanka (USD 5 million), Bangladesh (1.5 USD million), Nepal (USD 1 million), Afghanistan (USD 1 million), Maldives (USD 200,000) and Bhutan (USD 100,000) have also contributed to the fund taking the total amount in the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to USD 18.3 million.
"A video conference of senior health professionals of SAARC countries is also proposed to be held on 26 March, 2020 to exchange experiences of combating the spread of COVID-19 thus far, including on specific protocols dealing with screening at entry points, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation facilities," the statement added.
The numbers of COVID-19 cases in all SAARC countries have been growing steadily, further reinforcing the need for all to act in fullest solidarity to address the challenge and mitigate its impact, it added.
The SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC-IU), Gandhinagar has also set up a website (http://www.covid19-sdmc.org/) on COVID-19 for shared use of SAARC countries.
The website aims to disseminate reliable information and updates on the evolving situation relating to COVID-19 in the region, and best practices being followed in member countries, the statement added.
"It is India's belief that sharing of resources, expertise, best practices and capacities in these challenging times would go a long way in bringing the countries in the SAARC region closer together," the statement said.
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 had participated in the conference.
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.
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