PM Modi at SAARC Video-Meet on Coronavirus: 'Don't Underestimate Issue, But Avoid Knee-Jerk Reaction'
PM Modi joining SAARC video conference | (Photo Credits: ANI)

New Delhi, March 15: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the video-meet of South Asian Association of Regional Corporation (SAARC) leaders on Sunday, pitched for a joint strategy to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic. The meeting was attended by the Presidents of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan, the PMs of Bhutan and Nepal, along with a top health department official of Pakistan. Coronavirus Outbreak in India: Total Number of Positive COVID-19 Cases Reach 107.

Modi, who presided over the video conference, appealed all SAARC member nations to not to underestimate the issue. Although the South Asia region is relatively less affected by COVID-19, its impact could be gauged only in the days to come, the Indian PM said. He, however, warned the neighbouring nations against being driven by panic or resorting to "knee-jerk reactions".

"As we all know, COVID-19 has recently been classified by W.H.O. as a pandemic. ​So far, our region has listed fewer than 150 cases. ​But we need to remain vigilant," he said.

Watch Video of SAARC Conference on Coronavirus

Before beginning his address, Modi paid special gratitude to Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli who joined the video conference immediately after his recent surgery. "I wish him speedy recovery," Modi said as he initiated the meeting. He also congratulated Afghanistan's Ashraf Ghani for his consecutive presidential victory.

Modi listed the spree of steps taken by India in combating the spread of coronavirus. "As we prepare to face this challenge, let me briefly share India’s experience of combating the spread of this virus so far. ​'Prepare, but don’t panic' has been our guiding mantra," he said.

"We started screening entry into India from mid-January itself, while also gradually increasing restrictions on travel. ​The step-by-step approach has helped avoid panic," Modi added.

"We have made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups. ​We have worked to quickly ramp up capacity in our system including through training our medical staff across the country. We also responded to the call of our people abroad. We evacuated nearly 1400 Indians from different countries. We also similarly helped some of the citizens of our neighborhood countries," he further said.

Bhutan PM Lotay Tshering, while speaking at the conference, lauded PM Modi for his role to bring all SAARC members together. "I think it is very timely and would like to thank PM Modi for his excellent leadership to bring all of us together because togetherness is required at all times but when the world is fighting one common disease, it is very imp to leave behind our differences," he said.