PM Narendra Modi proposes $10 mn for coronavirus fund

PM Narendra Modi proposes $10 mn for coronavirus fund

Reuters file photo

India on Sunday proposed to create a COVID-19 emergency fund for the SAARC region with an initial contribution of $10 million to halt the pandemic's progress into one of the world's most dense population with poor health infrastructure.

This was proposed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his video conference with the leaders representing the Southeast Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Barring Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, all other nations were represented by their top leadership. Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli who was discharged from a hospital day before also took part in the video-conference.

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“I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of $10 million. Any of us can use the fund to meet the cost of immediate actions,” the Prime Minister said.

It has been left to the Foreign Secretaries and diplomats from all the seven countries to coordinate quickly to finalize the concept of this fund and its operations.

Modi also advised his counterparts to refrain from any knee-jerk reactions.

Red-flagging the risks like “dense population” and “challenges to healthcare access”, he offered a number of services to India's neighbours ranging from testing the samples coming from the SAARC nations to train the quick response teams in these countries.

India and Pakistan are the two worst COVID-19 affected countries in the SAARC. Even though the numbers look modest at the time, officials fear spiraling of the caseload in the region in the coming days.

"We are assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists in India, along with testing kits and other equipment. They will be on stand-by, to be placed at your disposal, if required." Government sources said one such team is in the Maldives. The rapid response team carries with them trained doctors as well as huge diagnostic equipment.

Other things that have been offered include the disease surveillance software and associated training for the staff, a common research platform and brainstorm by the experts from all the countries to determine the long term economic loss due to COVID-19.

“This is not the first nor the last such pandemic that will affect us. We should evolve common SAARC pandemic protocols, which can be applied on all our borders as well as within our borders in such situations,” the Prime Minister said.

Going by the Union Health Ministry the number of positive cases stands at 107 even though the figures available from the states add up to more than 110.

On Sunday, a batch of 236 evacuees from Iran has been put up at an Army quarantine camp in Jaisalmer while 218 people who came from Italy are housed in an ITBP facility at Chawla. The government has also placed orders for nearly 80.5 thousand N95 masks for healthcare workers and others who would be needing them.

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