COVID 19: Pakistan to host South Asian regional meet on Thursday

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By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan will host a virtual conference of health ministers and senior officials from eight-member South Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on Thursday (April 23) to discuss common strategy against Covid-19.
The SAARC conference was proposed by Pakistan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza will lead the delegation, according to foreign office statement on Wednesday.
On March 15, SAARC leaders held a virtual conference on the pandemic. While other countries including India were represented by heads of state and governments. However, Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, participated in the moot.
“As proposed by Pakistan, a video conference of SAARC member states is being held on April 23, 2020 to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the statement.
Besides ministers and senior officials, the meeting will be attended by SAARC Secretary General Esala Ruwan Weerakon, it added.
The virtual meeting takes forward Pakistan’s earlier initiative to host the SAARC health ministers meeting, which has assumed urgency in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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, including inter alia through strengthening disease surveillance, sharing best practices, building national capacities, coordinating research efforts and promoting regional and international linkages.
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“High population densities and fragile health systems render South Asia, which is home to one-fifth of humanity, vulnerable to the pandemic,” the statement noted.
It said closer coordination among regional countries through the utilisation of all available institutional mechanisms, including the SAARC platform, remains important for combating the disease.
The video conference is part of Pakistan’s efforts to foster greater cooperation at the regional level to effectively overcome the public health crisis, and mitigate its socio-economic impact.
Until now, SAARC virtually remained dysfunctional for the last many years because of the estranged ties between Pakistan and India.

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