PM Modi said the nations could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy (File)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in a video conference with other SAARC nations at 5 pm today to evolve a joint strategy to fight the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak that has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide and infected 1.3 lakh others.
"Come together for (the) common good! 15 March, 1700 IST. PM Narendra Modi will lead India at the video conference call of all SAARC member countries, to chalk out a strong common strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region," Raveesh Kumar, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, tweeted this evening.
The video conference comes on the back of a tweet by PM Modi calling on SAARC countries to work together to contain this deadly pandemic.
"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," the Prime Minister tweeted on Friday.
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.
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are members of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
Prime Minister Modi's call was well received by member countries, with a Pakistan Foreign Affairs spokesperson tweeting early this morning to acknowledge the need for "coordinated efforts at global and regional level(s)".
The Prime Minister of Bhutan and Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were among those who thanked PM Modi for the initiative.
There are over 80 confirmed cases in the country and, as per data from the World Health Organisation, there are 126 cases in SAARC region; Pakistan has 20 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 Organisation has declared the outbreak a pandemic, meaning it has spread worldwide and affected huge number of people.