Pakistan organized SAARC Health Ministers’ Video Conference on Covid-19 today. All Member States and the SAARC Secretary General, Esala Ruwan Weerakoon participated in the Conference.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Services and Regulations Dr. Zafar Mirza chaired the meeting. Mrs. Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister for Health and Indigenous Medical Services of Sri Lanka; Mr. Nabraj Raut, State Minister for Health and Population of Nepal; Dr. Wahid Majrooh, Deputy Minister for Healthcare Services of Afghanistan; Dr. Ugen Dophu, Secretary Health of Bhutan, Prof. Dr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health Services of Bangladesh; Ms. Maimoona Aboobakuru, Director General of Public Health of Maldives; and Prof. Rajiv Garg, Director General of Health Services of India led their respective delegations.

Issues including real-time sharing of information and clinical data, capacity building and training of medical and paramedical staff, supply of medicines and medical equipment, research coordination and enhancing cooperation with front line international organizations including the WHO came under discussion.

Sharing Pakistan’s perspective, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza underscored that South Asia was particularly vulnerable on account of its high population densities, fragile health systems and rudimentary disease surveillance. The uncertainties associated with the outbreak had left no room for complacency. However, it also posed an opportunity for South Asia to strengthen health systems.

Dr. Mirza briefed the participants about the containment and relief measures being taken by Pakistan. The National Coordination Committee headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan was focussed on implementing National Action Plan against Covid-19. He highlighted Pakistan’s strategy of smart lock downs aimed at containing the virus, while ensuring that economic activity was minimally impeded. Participants agreed to work together to adopt international best practices keeping in view the specific socio-economic circumstances of South Asia. All heads of delegations presented their country situations and efforts to contain the outbreak at national levels.

Proposals to fast-track creation of linkages among medical universities, academia and research institutions came under review. During the meeting, Pakistan proposed greater coordination among health authorities of SAARC Member States in the context of combating the pandemic and in this regard, suggested activating the SAARC Technical Committee on Health and Population Activities. It was agreed to enhance cooperation in the health sector, particularly in the context of efforts to combat the virus at the regional level.

The Health Ministers’ Video Conference was a reaffirmation of Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC process and its efforts to forge closer cooperation among Member States in situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

All Member States and the SAARC Secretary General appreciated Pakistan’s timely initiative of organizing the Video Conference.

Islamabad

23 April 2020

176/2020
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