Saarc health ministers discuss pandemic challenge

Published April 24, 2020
Virtual meeting took forward Pakistan’s earlier initiative to host the Saarc health ministers’ meeting. — AFP/File
Virtual meeting took forward Pakistan’s earlier initiative to host the Saarc health ministers’ meeting. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A meeting of health ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries on Thurs­day discussed the issue of the Covid-19 pandemic and ways to promote deeper cooperation among member states to combat the deadly disease.

The meeting, held thro­ugh video link, was cha­ir­ed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza. It was part of Pakistan’s eff­orts to foster greater cooperation at the regional level to fight the major public health crisis and to mitigate its socioeconomic impacts on peoples of countries of the region.

The virtual meeting took forward Pakistan’s earlier initiative to host the Saarc health ministers’ meeting, which assumed urgency because of the grave threat posed to the peoples’ lives by Covid-19.

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

The high population density and fragile health systems render South Asia, the home of one-fifth of humanity, vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic and that necessitates close coordination among regional countries thro­ugh utilisation of all available institutional mech­anisms, including Saarc platform, to combat the disease.

According to a statement, health ministers of all member countries of Saarc participated in the conference and reached a consensus that they would do joint efforts to combat the Covid-19.

Dr Mirza informed representatives of member countries about efforts the Pakistan government did to combat the disease in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mirza said: “We have introduced and adopted the strategy of smart lockdown so that economy would not suffer while controlling the virus. It is a pandemic so there is need to activate the Saarc Technical Committee on Health.”

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2020

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