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India attends SAARC conference for health ministers on COVID-19 situation

The meeting comes over a month after India took the lead with PM Modi bringing the SAARC leaders together through a video-conference amid rising coronavirus cases in the region.

SNS | New Delhi |

India on Thursday participated in a video conference of SAARC health ministers hosted by Pakistan to promote greater regional cooperation to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said India was represented at the conference by Director General of Health Services who was assisted by experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

“The virtual meeting was an occasion for India to reaffirm its strong commitment towards greater sharing of knowledge, expertise and best practices in the joint fight against COVID-19 for the larger regional good,” the MEA said.

Most SAARC countries were represented at the official level. “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 MEA said in a statement.

It said India made a detailed presentation at the conference on how it is responding to the situation. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

All the SAARC member nations are facing adverse social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the video conference, the Indian side briefed other countries about its efforts to ramp up production of medicines and essential materials besides its research on drugs and vaccines to confront the pandemic.

“At the meeting, India also highlighted the successful use and promising future of new and innovative technology-based solutions such as the mobile app ”Aarogya Setu” to maximize community outreach and intervention,” the MEA said

The meeting comes over a month after India took the lead with Prime Minister Narendra Modi bringing the SAARC leaders together through a video-conference amid rising coronavirus cases in the populous region.

“The sentiment of cooperation and solidarity in the region intensified by Prime Minister Modi’s video conference with SAARC Leaders on March 15 has led to much progress in the fight against COVID-19 through a series of concrete follow-up measures aimed at easing the suffering of the people in the region,” the MEA said.

It listed setting up of the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, creation of a dedicated website developed by SAARC Disaster Management Centre in Gandhinagar and promotion of a stand-alone network of health and trade officials for their interaction in real time among the visible practical steps to deal with the pandemic at the regional level.

India has also developed an electronic platform for use by all SAARC countries to exchange information on response mechanism to deal with the pandemic.

“As the next major step, the platform will be launched for exchange of specialized information and tools on COVID-19 among designated health professionals in the region,” the MEA said.

As a follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call upon SAARC nations to jointly combat coronavirus, India on Wednesday had announced the launch of two training programmes on the management of the pandemic for healthcare professionals from member-nations of the grouping starting from 17 April.

The training will be imparted under the External Affairs Ministry’s prestigious Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

“Taking forward @PMOIndia’s vision on PrepareNotPanic for SAARCfightsCorona, @MEAIndia announces [email protected] training programmes on COVID19 for healthcare professionals for SAARC countries starting April 17, 2020,” a tweet by ITEC network said.