JAKARTA, 9 March 2020 – Two months after the emergence of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Wuhan City, China, the ASEAN Health Sector continues to sustain its collective response against the spread of the disease in the ASEAN region and beyond.

Cambodia, as the ASEAN Health Ministers’ and ASEAN Senior Officials for Health Development’s current Chair, will reconvene the senior health officials of ASEAN Member States (AMS) through a special video conference on 13 March.

This follow-up will further review and assess the enhanced cooperation in regional preparedness, response strategies and counter measures which have been activated since the sector received the initial report of pneumonia cases from China’s health counterparts earlier this year.

This video conference also aims to discuss critical challenges and gaps in national prevention and control, as well as the regional collective efforts that need to be addressed urgently through existing ASEAN health cooperation mechanisms for Dialogue and Development Partners.

Included in these mechanisms is the ASEAN Plus Three Health Cooperation which has anchored its response to COVID-19 based on the relevant agreements in the Joint Statement of the 8th ASEAN Plus Three Health Ministers Meeting in August 2019. This refers to their commitment to “continue efforts in the implementation of the International Health Regulation (IHR) and Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases to enhance capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health threats”.

Leveraging on the IHR and other existing health mechanisms, the ASEAN Health Sector along with their counterparts from China, Japan and Korea, have continued their commitment to share timely information and technical exchanges, and updates on COVID-19 developments.

The ASEAN Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Network for public health emergencies (ASEAN EOC Network) is one of the mechanisms utilised by the ASEAN Plus Three Health Cooperation in addressing COVID-19.

Other existing mechanisms in disease surveillance and field epidemiology; risk assessment and risk communications; and, public health laboratory preparedness and response have likewise been utilised.

The Malaysia-led ASEAN EOC Network continues to lead the overall health sector information sharing and technical exchange efforts. It hosted video conferences that facilitated agreements on regional cooperation priorities, and technical exchange on clinical management of COVID-19 cases, among others.

The ASEAN BioDiaspora Virtual Centre led by the Philippines produced the regional Risk Assessment Reports for the International Dissemination of COVID-19 to the ASEAN region. The reports provide highlights and situation overview in ASEAN and globally; information on air travel flows between AMS and countries with cases and outbreaks; travel restrictions; and the evolution of the ongoing outbreak.  A page at the ASEAN Website has been dedicated to capture the prevention, detection and response efforts of the ASEAN Health Sector to COVID-19.

So far, there have been more than 109,600 confirmed cases and more than 4,300 deaths. In China, there were 81,033 cases and 3,614 deaths including those in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China have been reported in 101 countries including seven AMS.