India attends SAARC Conference on COVID-19 pandemic

On Thursday, India participated in a virtual meeting of SAARC health ministers hosted by Pakistan. Dr. Rajiv Garg represented India in the conference. Dr. Rajiv is presently the Director-General of Health Services.
 
This conference was a golden opportunity for the Indian government to reiterate its commitment towards the sharing of expertise and best practices in the battle against COVID-19.
 
“This event followed India’s earlier initiative of hosting a video conference of senior health professionals on March 26 which had proved to be a productive and outcome-oriented exercise to promote greater regional cooperation against COVID-19,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.
 
About SAARC:
 
The acronym SAARC stands for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. It consists of 8 member states: 
• Afghanistan 
• Bangladesh 
• Bhutan 
• India
• Maldives 
• Nepal
• Pakistan 
• Sri Lanka
 
SAARC’s Efforts To Contain COVID-19 Infection:
 
• In March, the Indian PM move convened a video conference of the SAARC states to collectively contain the threat of COVID-19. In this meet, Modi gave the idea of a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. India also offered the services of a rapid response team of physicians and healthcare workers armed with testing kits.
 
• The guiding principle for India during the period of crisis is “prepare, but don’t panic,” PM Modi said.
 
India’s other suggestions include online training sessions or capsules for the emergency response teams of the SAARC states, sharing of the software behind India’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal, usage of SAARC Disaster Management Centre to pool in best practises, creation of a common Research Platform and brainstorming on how to prevent the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. 
 
Different countries taking different measures :
 
President Ashraf Ghani proposed the creation of a common framework for telemedicine, while President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih suggested formulating an economic relief package for the region. Solih also thanked the Indian government for the supply of necessary drugs.
 
Bangladesh was in favour of the continuance of the dialogue between Health Ministers and Secretaries of the region, whereas Nepal underlined the significance of collective efforts to contain the rapidly spreading virus.
 
Pakistan gave the idea of making a working group of national authorities for real-time data exchange among the member states.
 
India has also decided to supply the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and other medicines to Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. For instance, India has decided to send 5 lakh tablets of HCQ to Afghanistan last week.
 
• In the first week of April, Pakistan skipped a video conference of senior trade officials of the SAARC states. While the rest of the SAARC members attended the meet to discuss the repercussions of travel restrictions on intra-regional trade.                     
 
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