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Coronavirus outbreak: Pakistan to host SAARC video conference on April 23, confirms FO

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will host the April 23 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) video conference on COVID-19 pandemic, a statement from the Foreign Office said Wednesday.

“Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health Dr. Zafar Mirza will lead the Pakistan delegation. Besides Ministers/ Senior Officials, the meeting will be attended by Secretary-General SAARC, His Excellency Esala Ruwan Weerakon,” said the statement. 

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, the statement read.

“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,” the statement said.

High population densities and fragile health systems render South Asia, which is home to one-fifth of humanity, vulnerable to the pandemic. Closer coordination among regional countries through 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,” the statement added.

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