"Our coming together will lead to effective outcomes," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said ahead of his video conference with other SAARC nations to evolve a joint strategy to fight the sweeping novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak that has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide and infected 1.3 lakh others.
The video conference comes two days after PM Modi pitched that SAARC leaders work together to fight the pandemic.
"Timely action for a healthier planet. Tomorrow (Sunday) at 5 PM, leaders of SAARC nations will discuss, via conferencing, a roadmap to fight the challenge of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus," PM Modi tweeted last night.
"I am confident that our coming together will lead to effective outcomes and benefit our citizens," he said.
Timely action for a healthier planet.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 14, 2020
Tomorrow at 5 PM, leaders of SAARC nations will discuss, via conferencing, a roadmap to fight the challenge of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus.
I am confident that our coming together will lead to effective outcomes and benefit our citizens.
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are members of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
In tweets on Friday, the Prime Minister had said the leaders can discuss via video conferencing ways to keep citizens healthy.
"I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy," PM Modi had tweeted.
South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people are healthy, PM Modi said in another tweet.
Prime Minister Modi's call was well received by member countries, with a Pakistan Foreign Affairs spokesperson tweeting on Saturday to acknowledge the need for "coordinated efforts at global and regional level(s)". Representing Pakistan will be Dr Zafar Mirza, Prime Minister Imran Khan's special assistant on health. The Afghan mission in New Delhi said that President Ashraf Ghani will join PM Modi and the south Asian leaders. Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will also participate in the video conference, the country's mission in India reportedly said.
The threat of #COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of #SAARC member countries on the issue.— Spokesperson MoFA (@ForeignOfficePk) March 13, 2020
The Prime Minister of Bhutan and Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were among those who thanked PM Modi for the initiative.
Coming together for common good!— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) March 14, 2020
15 March, 1700 IST
PM @narendramodi will lead India at the video conference of all SAARC member countries, to chalk out a strong common strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region. pic.twitter.com/Qa0kL9CqcI
There are over 90 confirmed cases in India and, as per data from the World Health Organization, there are 126 cases in SAARC region; Pakistan has over 30 COVID-19 cases.
Two deaths from the region have been linked to COVID-19. Both are from India - a 68-year-old woman died on Friday and a 76-year-old man died on Thursday.
The Indian government has announced various internal measures to combat the outbreak.
This includes closing 18 of 37 border checkposts to international traffic and suspension of all existing visas - except a few types such as UN and diplomatic - till April 15. The government has also advised against non-essential travel abroad; people have been warned of a 14-day quarantine on their return.
Various state governments have also reacted, shutting down public spaces such as malls and cinema theatres, as well as closing schools and colleges. On Saturday, leading IT major Infosys announced it would temporarily close a Bengaluru office and sanitise premises after a suspected COVID-19 case.
The COVID-19 outbreak began in a market in China's Wuhan district in December last year. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic, meaning it has spread worldwide and affected huge number of people.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI)