Pakistan to host SAARC virtual conference on COVID-19

Islamabad: Pakistan will host a virtual conference of Ministers and senior officials from 8-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) today to discuss a common strategy against the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.

The SAARC conference was proposed by Pakistan after the regional Ministers and representatives participated in a similar virtual summit on 15 March which was initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As proposed by Pakistan, a video conference of Saarc Member States is being held on 23 April 2020 to discuss the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Express Tribune quoted a statement by the Foreign Office as saying.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health Zafar Mirza will lead the Pakistan delegation. Besides ministers and senior officials, the meeting would also be attended by Saarc Secretary General Esala Ruwan Weerakon, the statement added.

In addition to exchanging updates on the status of national containment efforts, the conference will deliberate on ways to promote deeper cooperation to combat the crisis through strengthening disease surveillance, sharing best practices, building national capacities, coordinating research efforts and promoting regional and international linkages.

High population densities and fragile health systems render South Asia, which is home to one-fifth of the humanity, vulnerable to the pandemic, the statement noted.

It said closer coordination among regional countries through utilisation of all available institutional mechanisms, including the Saarc platform, remains important for combating the disease.