SAARC talks to show ‘new path’ to battling coronavirus: Hasina

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2020-03-15 18:12:18 BdST

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has joined her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and other leaders of the SAARC nations to discuss ways out of the coronavirus crisis with the disease spreading through South Asia like the rest of the world.

“I hope this conference will show a new path to all of us in tackling the coronavirus,” Hasina said in her speech via videoconferencing.

She also said the health ministers and secretaries can also have a similar conference to discuss the technicalities of the response to the coronavirus.

In her brief speech, Hasina mentioned that Bangladesh has only five imported cases, but no local cases so far.

She said Bangladesh was ready to share its capacity and expertise, including logistics support, with the SAARC countries, to fight the virus.

She proposed establishment of an institution in Bangladesh to prevent and fight any public health threats in the South Asian region.

Modi led the discussion that started via videoconferencing at 5:30pm Dhaka time on Sunday and said: “We cannot predict the situation which is why it is most valuable to share each other's perspective.”

The others who joined the talks include Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Zafar Mirza, special assistant on health to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, represented their country. 

Rajapaksa said all schools and colleges in Sri Lanka have been closed.

The eight countries are all members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC.

Modi proposed the talks after India confirmed its first death from coronavirus on Thursday. The other nations in the region, including Bangladesh, have also reported infections as the global death toll neared 6,000.

Modi had described the videoconference by SAARC nations as a "timely action for a healthier planet". In a tweet, he said: "I am confident that our coming together will lead to effective outcomes and benefit our citizens."