Asean’s response to Covid-19

Right after assuming the chairmanship of Asean in 2020, Vietnam has been challenged by the outbreak of Covid-19 disease. Regional response to the disease has been coordinated and collective efforts have been taken.

On February 15, Asean issued a statement calling for regional solidarity and enhanced spirit “cohesive and responsive” Asean in addressing Covid-19. At the special meeting between the foreign ministers of Asean and China, Asean commended the efforts of China in containing the outbreak.

The joint statement between Asean and China suggests nine-point proposals. First, sharing information and best practices in a timely manner, including exchanging available epidemiological information, technical guidelines and solutions for epidemic prevention and control, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance, with a view to enhancing capacity in emergency preparedness and response.

Second, strengthening cooperation within Asean-led mechanisms and with external partners to address COVID-19 in a comprehensive and effective manner, taking into account the different levels of development of health systems in the region.

Third, strengthening cooperation in risk communication and community engagement readiness and response to ensure that people are rightly and thoroughly informed on COVID-19 and are not being misled by misinformation and fake news pertaining to COVID-19.

Fourth, strengthening policy dialogue and exchanges on the latest development of the COVID-19, including its control and treatment, and its related study and research.

Fifth, working together to enhance the capacity to prevent and control emerging and re-emerging infectious and communicable diseases such as COVID-19, engage in exchanges of relevant data and technology, experience and capacity building, including training of health and medical personnel, mutual visits of medical experts and other health workers.

Sixth, mitigating supply chain disruptions of urgent medical goods and promote research and development of medicines and vaccines.

Seventh, supporting enterprises affected by the epidemic, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), as appropriate, including through promotion of digital economy to facilitate economic activity during epidemics.

Eight, supporting the use of information and communication technologies for the continued development of public health.

Ninth, reducing the impact of the epidemic on the economic and social development of all affected countries,

On February 19, the Asean Defense Minister’s retreat called for regional collective efforts in addressing the epidemic which is affecting people’s health, economic development as well as security and stability of the area. The joint statement issued by the Asean defense ministers stressed six points.

First, enhancing practical cooperation among Asean defence establisments.

Second, leveraging the network of Asean chemecial, biological and radiological defence experts to enhance professional linkages and promote scientific cooperation to manage infectious diseas outbreak.

Third, encouraging new initiatives and ways of cooperation contributing to Asean’s overall efforts to counter fake news regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure our people are well informed of the situation.

Fourth, cooperating proactively with other relevant sectoral bodies of Asean in tackling the COVID-19 in the spirit of Asean’s solidarity, and with other countries in the region and the world.

Fifth, supporting the efforts of our respective national health authorities as well as utilising Asean’s regional health mechanisms for coordination and cooperation in response to this emerging public health threat.

Sixth,  doing our part, and staying united to overcome the COVID-19 outbreak for the benefit of the people of Asean.

On February 20, at the regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam emphasis robust cooperation between Asean and China in fighting against Covid-19.

“Vietnam is willing and will continue to work closely with China and other countries in preventing the spread of disease and sharing treatment experiences. We believe that, under the leadership of the Party and the Chinese government, with the cooperation and support of the international community, Chinese people will soon overcome this problem,” said Doan Khac Viet.

Vietnam will chair the ASEAN Summit in early April to further discuss regional response to Covid-19 to strengthen a cohesive and responsive Asean in addressing the epidemics.

By: Mr. Uch Leang, Department of Asian, African and Middle East Studies of International Relations Institute of Cambodia (IRIC).

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