Pakistan makes a new proposal in the SAARC conference over Coronavirus spread

Pakistan makes a new proposal in the SAARC conference over Coronavirus spread

ISLAMABAD - After the coronavirus cases reported in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK), Pakistan on Sunday demanded India to lift lockdown from the territory to enable the containment and relief efforts in view of health emergency.

“It is a matter of concern that COVID-19 has been reported from Jammu and Kashmir and in view of a health emergency, it is imperative that all lockdown in the territory must be lifted immediately,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Minister of State for Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said addressing a video conference of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to chalk out a plan against Covd-19.

Besides SAPM Zafar Mirza, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldives’ President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutan’s premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also participated in the video conference.

Dr Mirza said with over 155,000 infections, 5833 deaths and 138 countries involved, no nation and no region on earth could afford to be unresponsive to the prevailing situation.

“Pakistan shares common concern over the potential of COVID-19 affecting South Asia. All our countries have confirmed cases. There is no room for any complacency. While hoping for the best we have to be prepared for the worst,” he said.

Among other measures, he proposed instituting exit screening by member states for travelers in the region, and instituting mechanisms for learning from the effective efforts of China, a SAARC Observer State, in containment and control.

He called upon the South Asian nations for a calm, calculated, and deliberate response to fight coronavirus but strongly advised against panic.

He highlighted Pakistan’s approaches and responses to the pandemic, underscored that Pakistan had been engaged in containment efforts from the outset of the outbreak.

Pakistan’s proactive strategy and containment efforts had been recognized and commended by the WHO, he added.

Dr Mirza said the diagnosed cases in Pakistan had been isolated and contacts were being traced proactively.

He said being personally overseen by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s response strategy had four pillars including governance and financing, prevention, mitigation, and communication.

“Our National Security Committee met on 13 March, for the first time on a national health issue, and has decided to take further steps to contain the spread,” he added.

“We have been matching our measures to real-time threat assessments while, we have stressed the need for caution and strongly advised against panic,” Dr Mizra said.

He told the eight-nation body that Pakistan had decided to close all the educational institutions for three weeks, entire western border for two weeks, restrict international flights to three airports only and ban all large public gatherings.

He said COVID-19 had been characterized as a global pandemic, but at the same time it was deemed controllable, provided timely and appropriate public health measures were put in place.

He said effective coordination at all levels was deemed critically important. “The pandemic forces us to think not in terms of nations and states, but as a collective.”

The challenge at hand, demands sagacity, vision and synergy, he added. He underscored the need to empower and mandate the SAARC Secretariat to act as a platform for regional efforts to combat the pandemic.

He reiterated Pakistan’s earlier proposal of hosting SAARC Health Ministers’ Conference at the earliest opportunity.

Regarding the closure of Afghan border crossing pointed out by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Zafar Mirza said it was a temporary measure in light of the WHO guidelines.

“In consultation with WHO, we have been taking steps to restrict movement to and from the affected areas, regulate lights, institute detection measures at entry points, and establish quarantine controls at border crossings,” he added.