ASEAN and Chinese foreign ministers agreed to a nine-point plan Thursday to work together to combat the spread of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19.
In a statement issued after a special meeting in Vientiane, the ministers emphasised the “growing urgency and need for cooperation in COVID-19 surveillance, prevention, detection and control.”
The statement noted that ASEAN and China had “close links and are each other’s major tourist destinations with an annual travel flow of over 65 million visits and China being the largest trading partner of ASEAN while ASEAN is the second largest trading partner of China.
The ministers agreed to:
(1) step up cooperation in the region against COVID-19 by 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 to enhance capacity in emergency preparedness and response;
(2) strengthen cooperation within ASEAN-led mechanisms and with external partners to address COVID-19 in a comprehensive and effective manner, taking into account different levels of development of health systems in the region;
(3) strengthen cooperation in risk communication and community engagement readiness and response to ensure people are rightly and thoroughly informed about COVID-19 and not misled by misinformation and fake news;
(4) strengthen policy dialogue and exchanges on latest developments including control, treatment and related study and research through mechanisms such as the ASEAN-China Health Ministers Meeting and the ASEAN-China Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development to fully implement the ASEAN-China MOU on Health Cooperation and support more mutually agreed cooperation projects;
(5) work together to enhance capacity to prevent and control emerging and re-emerging infectious and communicable diseases; 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 and possibly holding an ASEAN-China Workshop on Health Emergency Personnel; strengthen cooperation between the US Centers for Disease Control and relevant institutions of ASEAN and China; and set up a sub-forum during the Third ASEAN-China Forum on Health Cooperation to be held this year to conduct in-depth discussions on prevention and control of COVID-19;
(6) mitigate supply-chain disruptions of urgent medical goods and promote research and development of medicines and vaccines;
(7) support enterprises affected by the epidemic, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, including promoting the digital economy to facilitate economic activity during epidemics and making full use of the ASEAN-China Year of Digital Economy Cooperation;
(8) support the use of information and communication technologies for the continued development of public health; and
(9) commit to reducing the impact of the epidemic on the economic and social development of all affected countries, jointly maintaining people-to-people exchanges, trade and investment activities in the region, and, based on progress in preventing and controlling the epidemic, resume and enhance exchanges and cooperation.
“We are determined to continue working together to deal with this dangerous disease and to address the adverse impacts of COVID-19,” the statement said.
Ministers said they “agreed to brief our Leaders on the outcome of this meeting and welcome their guidance on proposals for their engagements at an appropriate time.”
The statement stressed the “important role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the global campaign to control and contain the spread of COVID-19. It also recognised the importance of health measures under International Health Regulations of 2005.
Ministers expressed “full confidence in China’s abilities to succeed in overcoming the epidemic with China appreciating the sympathy, support and assistance offered by ASEAN Member States to its response efforts.” AKP