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* Sri Lanka contributes $5 million to SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 08:02 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 23, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday has pledged to contribute US$ 5 million to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund set up under the leadership of India for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) countries to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, President’s Office said.

Contribution to this fund for the SAARC countries to draw from to deal with issues related to COVID-19, is on an entirely voluntary basis, the Presiden’s Media Division said.

During the videoconference among leaders of the SAARC region on March 15th, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who led an initiative to seek cooperation of all SAARC nations to combat COVID-19 coronavirus, proposed creating a COVID-19 Emergency Fund for SAARC nations and pledged US$ 10 million to start the fund.

Prime Minister Modi in a Twitter message thanked the Sri Lankan President for contributing $ 5 million to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund to fight the disease.

“Sincerely thank President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa for contributing $ 5 million to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Our cooperation will go a long way in fighting this disease effectively,” Modi tweeted.

Bangladesh has announced a $ 1.5 million contribution to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund while Afghanistan has contributed $ 1 million.

Following is the full announcement by the President’s Media Division:

President Gotabaya pledges USD 5 Million to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund

Today (23), President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged USD 5 million to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This is a fund for the SAARC countries to draw from to deal with issues related to COVID-19. Contribution to this fund is on an entirely voluntary basis.

On 15 March, the SAARC leaders met via video conferencing to discuss ways of supporting each other during these troubled days. Each leader shared the challenges faced in fighting the Corona virus. At the time of the conference, most SAARC countries had managed to keep the number of infected to lower levels of two digit numbers. Sri Lanka had only 11 confirmed cases.

However, the economies of each SAARC member is being severely affected due to the strict measures each country had to adapt to keep the virus at bay. The tourism sector has especially suffered as restrictions tightened on arrivals, especially from countries where the virus had spread to an epidemic.

In a sense it is a double whammy for Sri Lanka as the tourism industry was just recovering after the East Sunday Massacres last April. Sri Lanka’s export market too have been feeling the strain long before March, when the number of new cases actually began to rise. This was due to disruptions in the supply chain as China battled with the Coronavirus.

However, as early as January President Gotabaya called together a National Task Force to ensure all possible precautions are taken against this virus. The health sector has been especially fortified. All Sri Lankan expatriates and tourists who wanted to return were allowed and in certain instances, special flights were sent to bring them back home. Back in Sri Lanka, they were either quarantined or imposed self-quarantine for a period of two weeks.

By taking these prudent measures, Sri Lanka has been able to manage the virus from becoming an epidemic. The number of infected rose to the higher end of two digit numbers by the second week of March. However by the third week, the Government after imposing very strict measures has been able to bring down the number of new cases per day.

At the conclusion of the SAARC leaders’ video conference, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocated a joint effort to combat the challenges posed to the region by the virus. He thus proposed this COVID-19 emergency fund as a security blanket for the SAARC countries. As a starting point, PM Modi pledged USD 10 million, which he assured could be accessed by any SAARC member through the India Foreign Ministry and related missionaries.

At the conclusion of the video conference, President Gotabaya thanked PM Modi for both initiating the conference and also for creating this emergency fund. The other SAARC leaders also echoed President Gotabaya’s appreciation and pledged to work together to combat the challenge posed by COVID-19.

 

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