A video conference of senior South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) health professionals has been proposed on March 26 to exchange experiences of containing the spread of Covid-19.
This will be a follow-up to the video conference of Saarc leaders on March 15.
Along with the current developments on tracking and containing the virus, which includes screening at entry points, contact tracing, and quarantine facilities, the experts are also expected to discuss a practical joint action on "online training capsules for emergency response teams", setting-up of an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal, creation of a Common Research Platform and coordination of research on controlling epidemics within the region, India's Minister of External Affairs said in a statement on Monday.
The numbers of Covid-19 cases across the Saarc region have been growing steadily, "reinforcing the need for all to act in fullest solidarity to address the challenge and mitigate its impact."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Fund on 15 March while addressing the video conference of Saarc leaders. Modi then also said that contributions to it would be voluntary.
India on its part had announced that it will contribute $10 million initially to meet the costs of immediate action.
The fund has become operational and the requirements of urgent medical supplies and equipment in individual countries in the region are being met through it, the statement said.
India said it was "encouraging" that countries in South Asia had pledged contributions to the fund – created to fight the spread of the coronavirus in the region – taking the total amount to $18.3 million.
Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Maldives and Bhutan committed $5 million, $1 million, $1.5 million, $1 million, $200,000, and $100,000, respectively, to the fund.
Saarc countries, engaged in the initiative, believe that sharing resources, expertise, best practices, and capacities in these challenging times would go a long way in bringing the countries in the region closer.
In line with the initiative, the Saarc Disaster Management Centre set up a website (http://www.covid19-sdmc.org/) on Covid-19 for the shared use by Saarc countries.
The website, with the active participation of all member countries, has been designed to disseminate reliable information and updates on the evolving situation relating to Covid-19 in the region and best practices in member countries.
The Saarc makes up of over 21 percent of the world's population which remains vulnerable to Covid-19. The member states have reported over a thousand cases of infections.