Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead India at a video conference of all SAARC nations at 5 pm on Sunday to chalk out a joint strategy to fight coronavirus in the region, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
Modi on Friday proposed formulation of a joint strategy by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations to fight coronavirus, a suggestion that was backed by all the member states.
“Coming together for common good! 15 March, 1700 IST. PM Narendra Modi 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,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.
Calling on the SAARC nations to set an example for the world, Modi had reached out to the eight-member regional grouping and pitched for a video conference among its leaders to chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus, which has killed nearly 5,000 people globally.
His appeal got a prompt response from Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Afghan government, all of whom welcomed the proposal.
Pakistan’s response to the proposal came late in the night with the country’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui saying the threat of COVID-19 required coordinated efforts at global and regional levels.
“We have communicated that SAPM (Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister) on Health (Zafar Mirza) will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue,” she said.
Union Govt declares COVID-19 ‘disaster’, announces Rs 4 Lakh ex-gratia for deaths
In a significant development, the Union government on Saturday declared Covid-19 as a notified disaster and announced Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia payment to families of deceased persons.
Declaring Covid-19 as a notified disaster means that the central government will now provide assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and pay an ex-gratia for all coronavirus deaths.
“The Central Government keeping in view the spread of Covid-19 virus in India and the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), by way of a special one-time dispensation, has decided to treat it as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under SDRF,” the Union home ministry said in a letter to the chief secretaries of all states.
It also said announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs four lakh to families of those who die of coronavirus, including those involved in relief operations.
“Rs 4 lakh per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in response activities, subject to certification regarding cause of death from the appropriate authority,” the letter said.
Two people have died of Coronavirus in India so far and over 80 people have tested positive for COVID-19.
Over 5,000 people have lost their lives globally due to coronavirus infection so far. More than 134,300 people have been infected by coronavirus in 121 countries to date. A total of 3,176 people have died in mainland China, followed by 1,016 in Italy and 514 in Iran. These three countries count for the highest number of fatalities.