Four SAARC nations on Friday promised support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal of joint strategy to combat the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus.

Leaders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations — Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal — endorsed PM Modi’s proposal to devise a strategy to take on the Coronavirus pandemic which has affected over 100 countries across the globe.

PM Modi in a tweet asked SAARC leaders to come together and try every possible means to contain the outbreak in South Asia which is home to a significant portion of the planet.

“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,” he said in a tweet on Friday.

Speaking on Modi’s call, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said: “This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome.”

Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for taking the initiative and said his country is ready to join the discussion and share their learning and best practices as well as to learn from other SAARC members. “Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe,” the leader added.

President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the step towards battling Coronavirus. “COVID19 requires collective effort to defeat it. Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort,” Solih said.

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli welcomed the idea advanced by PM Modi to chalk out a strong strategy by the leadership of SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. “My government is ready to work closely with SAARC member states to protect our citizens from this deadly disease,” he said.

The total number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in India has risen to 81, including 16 Italians, said officials of the Health Ministry on Friday. These include 64 Indians, 16 Italians, a Canadian as well as one Indian national who died on Tuesday night, said Health Secretary Luv Agarwal.

The death toll from the Coronavirus pandemic has risen to 5,043 globally.

A total of 3,176 people have died in mainland China, followed by 1,016 in Italy, and 514 in Iran — the three countries with the highest number of deaths.

Since COVID-19 was first detected in December, more than 134,300 people have been infected in 121 countries and territories.