The ASEAN Health Sector immediately responded to the threat of a growing outbreak, as soon as it received the report from China, in early January, of unexplained pneumonia clusters in Wuhan. Existing national and regional mechanisms were activated to detect, prevent, and respond to the new coronavirus disease.

ASEAN, as a regional body, stepped up national responses and regional cooperation, complementing the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March. including other nations with weaker health systems are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

WHO addressed the growing outbreak affecting China and nearby countries and first declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. Prior to this declaration, six ASEAN Member States had already confirmed their first cases. By late March, all 10 Member States of ASEAN had been affected by the pandemic, as declared by WHO on 11 March 2020.

As each ASEAN Member State confirmed its first case, national prevention and control strategies were launched to initially contain the outbreak. These included public health measures on preparedness, prevention, control, detection, and response including public health advisories such as the promotion of frequent hand washing, appropriate use of masks, proper way of coughing and sneezing, and other ways of personal hygiene and sanitation.

Given the nature of the new coronavirus, innumerable data and information gaps were identified. Most critical were on how to appropriately and effectively prevent, detect, and respond to the spread of the disease; and how cases should be managed both in public health and clinical-health settings.

Regional health mechanisms were activated promptly to support national measures and to respond to the gaps as well as promote knowledge and information exchange in a timely manner.

The region and the world are now reeling from the pandemic’s negative impact, on economies and people’s livelihoods. This has necessitated a whole-of-government and multi-sectoral approach for each nation affected by COVID-19. In ASEAN, the pandemic has forged stronger regional cooperation and coordination among its Member States and partners.

The Initial Response to COVID-19:A Timeline of Regional Interventions

There has been a sense of urgency in addressing the growing crisis by showing the early and sustained regional response of the ASEAN Health Sector and Dialogue Partners, with the support of ASEAN Secretariat, as well as the interventions of non-health sectors, to address COVID-19.

This timeline presents an overview of the events that occurred in reaction to the initial disease outbreaks in China, Japan, Republic of Korea and ASEAN Member States. The ASEAN Health Sector has put emphasis on understanding the technical nature of the new coronavirus and how to adequately address this based on the experiences of the ASEAN Plus Three Countries: China, Republic of Korea, and Japan.

08_ASCC-April 2020-Shifting Current-COVID-19-Timeline of Regional Interventions


Guided by the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda (APHDA) and its Governance and Implementation Mechanism (GIM), the ASEAN Health Sector Cooperation deployed and operationalized the established and existing health mechanisms for technical exchanges, information sharing, and updates on policy-related measures in responding to COVID-19.

Employing an all hazards approach through the whole-of-health-system and whole-of-government approach, the ASEAN Health Sector addressed the COVID-19 threat in the whole spectrum of preparedness, detection, mitigation, and response measures through the various health platforms. All ASEAN Member States through the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) and SOMHD Plus Three reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance coordination and cooperation to control the spread of the COVID-19.

Since health officials from China shared the first information on the disease, the ASEAN Emergency Operations Centre Network for public health emergencies (ASEAN EOC Network), led by Malaysia, and with the support of ASEAN Secretariat had been sharing daily situational updates. They also provide information on prevention, detection and response measures to the ASEAN Senior Officials for Health Development (SOMHD) of ASEAN and China, Japan and Republic of Korea (Plus Three Countries), as well as to Contact Points of the ASEAN EOC Network and the ASEAN Plus Three Field Epidemiology Training Network (ASEAN+3 FETN). This is on top of the real-time information sharing through mobile instant messaging within the ASEAN EOC Network consisting of Disease Prevention and Control officials of ASEAN Member States.

The ASEAN BioDioaspora Regional Virtual Centre (ABVC) for big data analytics and visualisation complements the national risk assessments, readiness and response planning efforts. ABVC, led by the Philippines, recently produced reports on Risk Assessment for International Dissemination of COVID-19 across ASEAN Region. The reports provide high-level situational overview globally; the risk profile for the potential spread of the virus in the ASEAN region based on prospective flight data; and the need for mitigation measures against virus importation at international points of entry/exit.

The initiatives carried out by the ASEAN EOC Network and the ASEAN BioDiaspora Virtual Centre are part of the Mitigation of Biological Threats Programme Phase 2 implemented in cooperation with the Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Programme, previously known as the Global Partnership Programme.

Special Video-Conference of ASEAN Plus Three SOMHD on COVID-19

On February 3rd, 2020, the ASEAN Plus Three SOMHD attended by all ASEAN Member States and Plus Three Countries, also World Health Organization (WHO) representatives gathered together through Video Conference platform to share the current situation in all Countries, sharing of technical expertise and lessons in detection of COVID-19, and preparedness measures undertaken by all Countries.

WHO declared the COVID-19 as the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020, among others, to further strengthen Country’s health system and to establish international coordination and cooperation to mitigate the international dissemination of the COVID-19.

The ASEAN Plus Three SOMHD give credence to the existing mechanism in the ASEAN Health sector and its engagement with other regional and global platform.

  1. ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting for Health Development (APT SOMHD) currently chaired by Cambodia
  2. ASEAN Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) Network led by Malaysia
  3. ASEAN Plus Three Field Epidemiology Training Network (ASEAN+3 FETN) currently chaired by Malaysia and coordinated by Thailand;
  4. ASEAN BioDiaspora Virtual Centre for big data analytics and visualization (ABVC) led by Philippines;
  5. ASEAN Risk Assessment and Risk Communication Centre (ARARC) led by Malaysia;
  6. Public health laboratories network under the purview of ASEAN Health Cluster 2 on Responding to All Hazards and Emerging Threats; and,
  7. Regional Public Health Laboratories Network (RPHL) led by Thailand through the Global Health Security Agenda platform

The ASEAN Plus Three SOMHD Special Video Conference was concluded with reaffirmation of the commitment reiterated in the 8th ASEAN Plus Three Health Ministers Meeting, to continue our efforts on the implementation of International Health Regulation (IHR), Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases and Public Health Emergencies (APSED III) to enhance AMS and Plus Three countries’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats. In sustaining the progress made, there is further need to strengthen: (1) combating antimicrobial resistance, food safety and zoonotic disease control, (2) inter-sectoral communications and information-sharing including the regular sharing of outbreak investigation reports between human and other relevant sectors, and (3) existing inter-sectoral mechanism, which includes Development Partners, to oversee IHR core capacity development within AMS and Plus Three countries.

Related Press Release

ASEAN Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Network for Public Health

The ASEAN EOC Network for public health led by Ministry of Health Malaysia, provided a platform among ASEAN Member States officials working at the respective Crisis Centre and/or disease prevention and control, to share information in timely manner through various mechanism of communication.

Rapid and daily communication among the members such as sharing of information on the new confirmed cases and any measures taken at the national level is currently done through the WhatsApp mobile application. Daily and regular email communication is also being done to share updates given by ASEAN Member States and Plus Three Countries through the Health Division, ASEAN Secretariat on any new confirmed cases and press release issued by the Member States.

The ASEAN EOC Network produced a compilation of National/local Hotline/Call Centre in ASEAN Member States for COVID-19 which was shared to public through the Social-media platform of ASEAN. Also, ASEAN Member States dedicated a web-page to share any updates on the COVID-19 in their respective Ministry of Health webpage.

Related Press Release

Special Video Conference among ASEAN Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (PHEOC) and China on Clinical Management of the COVID-19 held on 20 February 2020

Clinicians and health experts under the PHEOC Network  from ASEAN Member States and China conducted a special video conference which was held that focused on exchange practices and challenges in the clinical management of the COVID-19 cases and how to mitigate its impact to communities.

The participants participants stressed the importance of the development of workflow protocols that cover identification, isolation, de-isolation of suspects and confirmed cases, including treatment algorithms.

Related Press Release

ASEAN BioDiaspora Virtual Centre (ABVC) for Big Data Analytics and Vizualisation

The ASEAN BioDiaspora program is a real-time web-based risk assessment tools, linking multiple datasets including air travel data, demography data of ASEAN Member States, human population density, animal populations, industrialization and utility distribution, vector locations, and other relevant datasets. The ASEAN BioDiaspora comprised of two different tools namely 1) The Explorer Tool and 2) The Insights Tool.

The Explorer Tool empowers public health with big data and advanced analytics to track and assess infectious disease threats anywhere in the world. The tool literally illustrates how disease may move around the world. Further, it demonstrates where the disease event is, the suitability of a local transmission, the factors driving disease spread, how connected the outbreak locations are with the rest of the world and what could happen if a case is imported. This web application allows users to interact with the information in a variety of ways.

The Insights Tool empowers healthcare organizations with contextualized insights about global infectious disease threats to manage risk. In addition to the Explorer information generated, Insights demonstrates which disease events are relevant to national and regional locations, the risk of disease exportation or importation, possible spread to the selected location, and disease information.

The ABVC in timely manner produced series of Risk Assessment (RA) Report for International Dissemination of COVID-19. The RA provided highlights and situational overview of the COVID-19, timeline of international dissemination, public health outlook and the risk of importation through air travel from the ground zero Wuhan as well as China to ASEAN Member States.

The RA was able provided public health officials with air-travel data volume in order to take the necessary measures for the potential dissemination of disease through the air-travel. It also provided information on cases and fatality cases related to COVID-19 and travel advisories among ASEAN Member States in response to COVID-19.

Link to the Risk Assessment Report

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Stay healthy while travelling

5.4.3 2 1

How to cope with stress during 2019-nCoV outbreak

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Practice food safety

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Shopping/Working in wet markets in China and Southeast Asia

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Protect yourself and others from getting sick

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