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.