Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji
Distinguished Heads of State and Government of SAARC Member States
Namaste and Good Afternoon !
First of all, I would like to thank Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji for taking this important and timely initiative, which I warmly welcome. Our collective wisdom and efforts will help us devise a sound and robust strategy for the SAARC region as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
(I wish to thank Prime Minister Modiji and all the distinguished leaders of SAARC member states for your kind words and best wishes on my speedy recovery.)
Even though we had detected one suspected imported case but the COVID-19 test proved negative. Yet we are aware of the high risk of potential outbreak at any time. We remain alert for preventing it.
We have taken several measures to enhance our preparedness. Our efforts at the moment are geared towards preventing this disease to enter into our country.
Our national efforts
I am personally overseeing and guiding the Government efforts. Multi-agency coordination committees have been set up at the center, provinces and local levels to mobilize government efforts in a synergetic manner.
We have restricted international movements. Visa on-arrival facility for all foreigners and Non-resident Nepalis with foreign passports has been suspended. Movement of third country nationals via land routes has been suspended.
Swab test PCR health certificate is made mandatory to obtain visa from Nepali missions abroad for essential travels to Nepal.
We have suspended issuance of work permits for Nepali nationals for overseas employment.
International passengers are required to go through the screening process at the health desk at the international airport. There are provisions for- self quarantine for certain categories of travelers. We are strengthening quarantine facilities in all provinces. Hospitals have arranged isolation wards and intensive wards for treatment.
We are enhancing capacity of hospitals. Health workers are being provided with personal protective equipment and necessary incentives to motivate them.
All the permits for mountaineering expeditions for Spring 2020 have been suspended and all major international conferences have been postponed.
Best Practices and Way Forward
Our region is at high risk of COVID-19. The epidemic knows no boundary, no nationality, and no region; therefore, we need to devise ways to combat this pandemic collectively. It is a common challenge; and it demands common efforts.
First thing is awareness creation. Community-based organizations and medical and non-medical volunteers could be mobilized in raising awareness and supporting Government agencies.
We have to appeal to our people to avoid non-essential foreign travels and to avoid attending mass-gatherings and other large scale events.
Our region is rich in traditional medicine. We have to encourage our people to use this asset for the prevention and treatment of this disease.
Our way of greetings people with Namaste, rather than shaking hands, can avoid potential threat of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
I believe that our region holds a good stock of emergency medical supplies, well-trained medical professionals and laboratory facilities. These could be deployed at the call from any Member State of SAARC in urgent need.
The hospitals in the bordering areas could also be utilized for the screening as well as treating infected patients if coming from across the borders.
We may encourage hospitals, medical centers, research institutions and health workers in the region to build a good network for sharing experiences, research findings and best practices in critical areas associated with the prevention and treatment of this deadly disease.
We need to ensure smooth supply of essential medicine, equipment and sanitary materials in the region.
We may think of developing a SAARC-level mechanism to deal with critical health issues such as this. Establishment of a SAARC emergency medical center supported by strong funding mechanism would be desirable. In this regard I welcom modiji ‘s proposal and Indias contribution. nepal will join this fund soon.
The economic cost of this pandemic is yet to be assessed. I am
sure it is going to cost all of us dearly if it prolongs. Regional discussion
on reviving our economies and supporting each other through providing easy
access, establishing value chains and promoting intra-regional trade,
investment, tourism and connectivity would be critically important.
Thank once again Prime Minister Shri Modi ji for taking this great initiative.