Coronavirus: India sends SAARC neighbours masks, gloves

COVID-19: India helps its SAARC neighbours with masks, gloves

Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs

India has started sending out masks, gloves, disinfectants and other items to the neighbouring South Asian nations to help them deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised during his video-conference with other SAARC leaders last Sunday.

Notwithstanding huge domestic demand for such items in the wake of the outbreak, New Delhi already responded to the requests from Bhutan and Maldives.

Similar requests from other countries are also being processed by the Government of India, Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said. “Prime Minister announced several proposals (in his video-conference with other SAARC leaders). You are aware that the initiative has been appreciated by several countries, including the SAARC member States. We are moving very fast on these announcements,” he said.

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Prime Minister proposed to set up a SAARC Emergency Response Fund for Covid-19, with an initial US $10 million contribution from India. New Delhi also proposed follow-up discussions among officials to further assess the impact of the pandemic.

“On the emergency fund, this is already up and running,” Kumar, the MEA spokesperson, said on Thursday. “We have received many requests from the other SAARC countries for assistance in the form of masks, gloves, disinfectants and other items. The quantum of requests received is already above $ 1 million. Supplies to Bhutan and Maldives have already been dispatched. Other requests are under various stages of process.”

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Modi also offered to deploy India's specially-constituted Rapid Response Teams of medical and other professionals, and testing equipment, to any SAARC partner country

New Delhi received an informal request from Maldives and Nepal for the deployment of Rapid Response Teams from India. A video conference is being scheduled on March 26 among the health professionals of all the SAARC member countries. The best practices being followed by health professionals will be discussed and shared, said Kumar.