Will participate in SAARC video conference on coronavirus: Pakistan on PM Modi’s proposal

Islamabad: Pakistan has said it will participate in a video conference of SAARC member countries proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 5,000 people globally.

Prime Minister Modi reached out to the eight-member regional grouping on Friday and pitched for a video conference among the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to chalk out a strong strategy to combat coronavirus outbreak.

Pakistan responded positively to Modi’s proposal, saying it was ready to participate in the conference, acknowledging that coordinated efforts were needed to minimise the threat posed by the deadly coronavirus.

“We have communicated that SAPM (Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister) on Health (Zafar Mirza) will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue,” Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a tweet on Friday.

Mirza is leading Pakistan’s campaign against the virus.

In a series of tweets, Modi said,”our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it. South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population should leave no stone unturned to ensure our people are healthy.”

“I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy. Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet,” he said in another tweet.

Modi’s suggestion was backed by all member states of SAARC. All the leaders of the grouping welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposal. Pakistan’s response to the proposal came late in the night.

On Thursday, Farooqui had said Pakistan was ready to cooperate and extend any assistance to its neighbours to deal with coronavirus.

The novel coronavirus originated in China’s Wuhan city in December last year and has killed over 5,000 people and infected more than 134,000 globally. China remains the worst-hit with 3,189 deaths and 80,824 confirmed cases of infection.

No death has been reported in Pakistan while two persons have died in India due to the disease. So far, 28 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Pakistan and there are 83 confirmed cases in India.

Pakistan’s high-powered National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday took several decision to boost efforts to defeat the threat posed by the virus.

Among other things, it decided to close down the western border with Afghanistan and Iran.

According to NSC, the Kartarpur corridor will remain open for Indian pilgrims, but has been closed for Pakistani visitors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday characterised the COVID-19 outbreak as a “pandemic” and expressed deep concern over its “alarming levels” of “spread, severity, as well as inaction”.

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