SAARC nations vow to jointly fight COVID-19, “Electronic Platform” proposed

Police personnel stop commuters and ask valid reason to come out during lockdown in New Delhi, India, March 24, 2020. (Xinhua/Partha Sarkar)

NEW DELHI, March 27 (Xinhua) — Leading health professionals and officials from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries held a video conference late Thursday evening to carry forward collaboration in the joint fight against COVID-19 at the ground level, said an official statement issued on Friday.

The SAARC member countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

A wide range of issues relating to COVID-19 were discussed extensively with active and purposeful participation of all sides.

India proposed to set up a shared “Electronic Platform” for all SAARC nations to share and exchange information, knowledge, expertise and best practices for jointly combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Electronic Platform” could also serve as a multipurpose vehicle to further discuss and conduct activities such as online training for emergency response personnel, knowledge partnerships, sharing of expertise in disease surveillance, including the corresponding software, and joint research for new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for epidemic diseases, said the official statement.

A considerable work is said to be already going into the creation of the Electronic Platform, said the official statement.

The video conference was held as per the announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Video Conference of SAARC Leaders on March 15, that health professionals of all SAARC member states could hold a video conference to exchange views and ideas on jointly fighting the pandemic.

The video conference was chaired by the director general of Health Services of India.

India made a comprehensive presentation on its response to COVID-19 covering the aspects of disease surveillance, contact tracing, travel restrictions and evacuation, risk assessment, diagnostics, isolation and quarantine methods and facilities, clinical management of patients, treatment options and protocols and safety of healthcare providers.

All other SAARC countries too shared their own experiences of dealing with the COVID-19 challenge in their respective settings.

All the participating countries highlighted their specific vulnerabilities, capacities, best practices, gaps in resources and logistics, private sector participation as well as levels of preparedness.

Community engagement and participation was identified as an important element in any anti-COVID-19 strategy to augment the large scale emergency measures undertaken by the governments in the SAARC region.