Modi proposes coronavirus fund, offers $10m

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2020-03-15 19:05:23 BdST

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed a coronavirus emergency fund for SAARC member states and made an initial offer of $10 million on behalf of his country to add to the fund.

“Our embassies can coordinate the utilisation of this fund,” Modi said on Sunday.

India can also arrange training capsules for health workers, Modi told SAARC leaders.

Modi led a 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.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined Modi and other leaders of the SAARC nations to discuss ways to beat back the coronavirus 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 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 added Bangladesh has only five imported cases, but no local infections 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.

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

The SAARC countries need to take a proactive approach for investing in health care, Zafar said.

Bhutan’s Tshering said countries in the region have to think of the long-term impact of the coronavirus, “not just acute relief”.

Oli of Nepal proposed use of hospitals in border areas for testing and treating patients from just across the border.

Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa emphasised controlling rumours “that will create panic”.

Since India is an important member of Shanghai Cooperation, of which China is also a member, Afghan President Ghani proposed increasing coordination with China to learn from its experience.

The disease COVID-19 originated in China and the country has most of cases reported globally. It is however, reporting more imported cases than those transmitted domestically now with Europe as the epicentre of the pandemic.