Spotlight: ASEAN nations join hands together to combat COVID-19

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-12 23:38:12|Editor: huaxia

HANOI, April 12 (Xinhua) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries have stood shoulder by shoulder with one another as well as with China to curb the spread of COVID-19, showing their strong determination and political commitment to battle the global pandemic.

Since early this year, ASEAN countries have been holding a number of meetings, both offline and online, with the participation of high-ranking officials, including ministers and heads of state or government, to discuss measures to bolster coordination and cooperation within the block as well as with its partners, especially China on fighting against COVID-19.

The Special ASEAN Summit and the Special ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN Plus Three countries or 10+3) Summit on COVID-19 Response are scheduled to take place on April 14 in video conference, with the chair of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his capacity as ASEAN Chair 2020, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung told an online press conference Thursday in Hanoi.

Heads of state or government of the 10 ASEAN member states, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and those of the three countries, China, Japan and South Korea are expected to adopt two separate joint statements on COVID-19 response reaffirming their high commitment and determination in eliminating the pandemic's risks which threaten people's lives and socio-economic stabilization of the nations, Dung said.

Also on Thursday, the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) held its 25th meeting at which foreign ministers of ASEAN countries agreed to submit to heads of state or government their recommendations regarding COVID-19 response which focus on three aspects, he said, noting that the aspects include containing and preventing the spread of COVID-19; supporting people in the countries hit by the disease, including providing consular assistance to ASEAN citizens living, working and studying in other ASEAN nations or a third country; and minimizing socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.

On March 20, the ACC held its 24th meeting to discuss measures to beef up collaboration and coordination within the ASEAN and with its dialogue partners. Emergency response mechanisms in the regional bloc and its partners, China, Japan and South Korea, were established right after the COVID-19 broke out.

The ASEAN Chair 2020, health, economic and defense ministers, and ministers in charge of tourism have issued statements, agreeing on closer coordination and cooperation with specific measures to effectively curb the spread of the pandemic.

On April 7, at the end of a special video conference of the ASEAN health ministers in enhancing cooperation on COVID-19 response, the ministers adopted a joint statement, agreeing to collectively enhance the exchange and sharing of timely data and information on COVID-19 on the prevention, detection, control and response measures, epidemiologic surveillance updates, risk assessment results, epidemiological and clinical studies on the virus and the disease, and technical guidelines.

The health ministers also agreed to strengthen regional cooperation in risk communication on COVID-19; utilize digital technology, including video conferencing and social media applications, as well as artificial intelligence, in addition to the existing official and formal platforms for efficient exchange of information which will facilitate the timely implementation of public health responses; and coordinate cross-border public health responses through existing bilateral and regional cooperation mechanisms.

Besides, they reached consensus on enhancing cooperation within ASEAN-led mechanisms and with external partners or stakeholders in capacity building interventions on public health emergency preparedness and response; ensuring that all persons infected by COVID-19 can access essential healthcare services; supporting the timely provision of assistance that is critical to sustaining affected national health systems in the region and improving the readiness of others; combating the outbreak in ASEAN, hand-in-hand with dialogue and development partners, and other regional and global entities; and continuing the collaboration in learning from the regional and national experiences in responding to COVID-19 challenges.

On March 10, ASEAN economic ministers (AEM) gathered in Vietnam's central Da Nang city for the 26th AEM Retreat, resolving to strengthen regional information sharing and coordination and collaboration efforts in responding to the economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak, and to leverage on technologies and digital trade to allow businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises to continue operations amidst the outbreak.

On Feb. 20, foreign ministers of ASEAN and China met in the Lao capital of Vientiane for a Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on COVID-19, agreeing to step up cooperation in the region against the disease by sharing information and best practices in a timely manner, and strengthen cooperation within ASEAN-led mechanisms and with external partners to address COVID-19 in a comprehensive and effective manner.

They also vowed to foster cooperation in risk communication and community engagement readiness and response; accelerate policy dialogue and exchanges on the latest development of COVID-19 through existing mechanisms such as the ASEAN-China Health Ministers' Meeting and the ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting on Health Development; and mitigate supply chain disruptions of urgent medical goods and promote research and development of medicines and vaccines.

On Feb. 19, ASEAN defense ministers issued a joint statement on defense cooperation against disease outbreaks after a meeting. According to the statement, the ministers resolved to enhance practical cooperation among ASEAN defense establishments to organize information and best practice sharing activities, and leverage the Network of ASEAN Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defense Experts to enhance professional linkages, and promote scientific cooperation to manage infectious disease outbreaks.

On Feb. 14, the ASEAN Chair 2020 issued the Chairman's Statement on ASEAN Collective Response to the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), reaffirming ASEAN's commitment to collectively respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Specifically, heads of state or government of ASEAN countries resolved to further strengthen the coordination of national and regional efforts in ensuring ASEAN's readiness and responsive measures to mitigate and subsequently eliminate the threats of COVID-19; intensify timely sharing of information, experiences and best practices among ASEAN member states, between ASEAN and China, other partners, the World Health Organization and international organizations, on the prevention, detection, and treatment of COVID-19 infections; and encourage the continued utilization and strengthening of regional mechanisms for coordination and cooperation in response to this threat.

"We are determined to work closely and actively with ASEAN's partners and the international community to mitigate the adverse impacts of the COVID-19. We pledge ASEAN's high priority in dealing with this dangerous disease and urge the international community to support ASEAN in this effort," read the statement.