- PM Modi suggested creation of an emergency fund to counter coronavirus
- India can start with an "initial offer" of $10 million, he said
- India has also set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday suggested the creation of an emergency fund with "voluntary contributions" to counter the novel coronavirus in SAARC nations -- India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India can start with an "initial offer" of $10 million, he said during a telephonic conversation with SAARC leaders to evolve a joint strategy to fight the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide.
Outlining the plan, the Prime Minister said, "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".
India, he added, had also set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted. "We could share this Disease Surveillance software with SAARC partners, and training on using this," he said.
India, PM Modi said, has made special efforts to reach out to groups vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus and worked to quickly ramp up capacity in the system including through training of medical staff.
"'Prepare, but don't panic' has been our guiding mantra. We have to avoid knee-jerk reactions," the Prime Minister said, adding that the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) region has so far seen 150 cases. "But we need to remain vigilant," he added.
Earlier, announcing his idea of a collaboration among the SAARC nations, the Prime Minister had tweeted: "Timely action for a healthier planet. 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".
The number of coronavirus cases in the country reached 110, with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases -- 31. Most of the 23 new cases are from the state.
As part of the preventive measures against the virus, most schools and colleges in the country have shut down, offices are encouraging their employees to work from home, cinema halls are shut and festivals and convocations stand cancelled. Parliament has barred visitors.