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Insights into Editorial: Coronavirus: PM Modi calls for SAARC nations’ conference to build strategy




“Timely Action For Healthier Planet”: PM Modi On Coronavirus SAARC Video Call:

In the wake of the rapid spread of Coronavirus infections across countries including South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a conference of the leaders of South Asian nations to discuss coordination and strategy to combat the advance of the disease.

PM Modi’s call for collective action came on a day India announced it was closing 18 of 37 border check points to ensure people from neighbouring countries were properly screened before they came into India.

India also announced the suspension of passenger trains and buses between India and Bangladesh and closure of border markets between the two countries. Indian officials however said that visa free entry for Nepalese and Bhutanese nationals will continue.

Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka welcomed Modi’s offer given that all South Asian countries have reported SARS-COV2 infection cases.

About SAARC:

SAARC refers to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – which groups together Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives. Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka besides India.

Born in the mid 1980s, the grouping has little to show for itself given that progress on issues like regional integration and connectivity has been slow mainly due to infighting between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan was to host a summit of SAARC leaders in 2016 but India,Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh pulled out citing Pakistan’s support to terrorism as not conducive for regional cooperation. No summit of SAARC has been held since.

Basic Preventive measures:

  1. SAARC collective wisdom, efforts will help us devise robust strategy against COVID-19.
  2. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) says wearing a medical mask is “one of the prevention measures to limit spread of certain respiratory diseases, including novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), in affected areas”.
  3. PM Modi announced that India had set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted.
  4. We could share this Disease Surveillance software with SAARC partners, and training on using this.
  5. India had made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups. ​We have worked to quickly ramp up capacity in our system including through training our medical staff across the country
  6. Transmission through droplets from coughing and sneezing is one of the major routes of virus spread. When worn correctly, a mask can reduce the risk of inhaling droplets containing the virus.
  7. With many studies showings that people infected with novel coronavirus transmit the virus even before symptoms show up, it may be prudent to wear a mask especially when the virus is spreading in the community.
  8. In a country like India, maintaining at least one metre distance can be a challenge, especially when there is no way of knowing who is infected till such time the person starts showing visible symptoms.

How do alcohol-based hand sanitisers help get rid of coronavirus?

  1. Like soap, the alcohol present in hand sanitisers dissolve the lipid envelop, thus inactivating the virus.
  2. In addition, the alcohol also tends to change the shape or denature the mushroom-shaped protein structures that stick out of the lipid envelop.
  3. The mushroom-shaped protein structures help the virus to bind to special structures found on human cells and enter the cells. To be effective, the sanitisers should contain at least 60% alcohol.
  4. Unlike soap lather, the alcohol does not come in contact with all parts of the hand.
  5. So, care needs to be taken to use sufficient amount of sanitiser to increase the coverage. Unlike water, alcohol run does not remove the dead viruses from the hand.
  6. While a sanitiser can quickly reduce the number of microbes, it does not get rid of all types of germs, and is “not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy”.

What other precautions should be taken when a mask is used?

  1. WHO cautions that using a mask alone will be insufficient to provide an “adequate level of protection”.
  2. It should be combined with hand hygiene to prevent human-to-human transmission.
  3. Wearing medical masks can give a person a “false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as hand hygiene practices”.
  4. So if an individual decides to wear a mask, care must be taken to regularly wash hands with soap or alcohol rub, and avoid touching the face with hands.
  5. Incorrect mask wearing might otherwise reduce the effectiveness in cutting the risk of transmission.
  6. It should be discarded once it gets wet or dirty, and care should be taken to safely dispose of used masks. The same mask should not used for more than a couple of hours.


Our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus.

Measures that India takes to combat the disease could be compromised if all countries in South Asia are not on the same page.

As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate.

With Indian leadership, there will be no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome.

At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it. South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population should leave no stone unturned to ensure our people are healthy.