Hasina for Saarc institution to fight public health threat

Stressing the need for forging collaboration among the Saarc countries through collective expertise and resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday proposed that an institution be established to prevent and fight any public health threat in the South Asian region in future.

“We believe it’s extremely important to establish an institution to prevent and fight against any public health threat in the South Asian region in future…. Bangladesh will be happy to host such institution if you all kindly agree,” she said joining a videoconference of the Saarc nations from her official residence Ganobhaban at 5:30pm.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak across the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the initiative to arrange the videoconference of all the Saarc nations to chalk out a joint strategy to tackle Covid-19 in this South Asia region.

Alongside Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza also joined the videoconference to represent their respective nations.

Sheikh Hasina said all the Saarc countries need to cooperate and collaborate closely to fight this Covid-19 pandemic. “We need to forge collaboration through our collective capacity, expertise and resources,” she said.

She said Bangladesh is ready to share its capacity and expertise as well as the best practices with the Saarc countries, including logistic support, if required.

“To continue this dialogue at the technical level, our (Saarc) health ministers, health secretaries and relevant health experts can also have this kind of videoconferences to discuss specific areas of cooperation,” the Bangladesh Prime Minister proposed, saying WHO South-East Asia Regional Director may be invited to these videoconferences.

“We need to devise a strong Saarc-wise strategy to fight this public health threat and protect our citizens,” she said.

Highlighting steps taken by Bangladesh to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh successfully prevented the entry of the virus through strong surveillance and rigorous checks-up at all international airports, seaports and land ports.

As of now, Bangladesh had only three Covid-19 imported cases. They have already recovered. There are two new imported cases from Europe, she said. “We have no local or community transmission of any Covid-19 case,” she said.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh has formed a national committee to provide guidance to people concerned from all ministries at all levels. It has also undertaken massive awareness-raising campaign everywhere in Bangladesh through all available media, including social media, she said.

“My party workers at all levels are active in raising awareness. Local body representatives are vigilant to enforce home quarantine, if necessary,” said Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladesh has kept four newly-built hospitals, including the Kuwait-Maitree Hospital in Dhaka, dedicated exclusively to deal with Covid-19 patients. In addition, there is one more hospital in Rajshahi to exclusively handle Covid-19 patients, she said.

It has also earmarked separate beds in every hospital in all districts to treat Covid-19 patients. A few vacant buildings have been identified where makeshift hospitals can be established in case there is any such need, the Prime Minister said.

“We’ve also trained health workers at the upazila level. Schoolchildren are also being trained to follow necessary personal hygiene,” she added.

Bangladesh has stockpiles for testing kits, infra-red thermometers, isolation gowns and masks, said Sheikh Hasina.

Noting that all countries are now interconnected in today’s world, she said the Saarc nations need to work together in close collaboration for addressing challenges like disease and climate change issues.

The Prime Minister extended thanks to her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for initiating this videoconference.

The Covid-19 outbreak began in a market in China’s Wuhan area in December last year. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic as it has spread worldwide and affected huge number of people globally.

source: UNB