JAKARTA, 31 MARCH 2020 - Health experts and officials from ASEAN Member States (AMS) and China reconvened through a special video conference to further discuss areas of cooperation in enhanced response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ASEAN Health Sector, through the current ASEAN Senior Health Official Chair – Indonesia, presented the progress of its response to COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak. They also addressed the identified capacity gaps and needs that were discussed at the Special Video Conference of ASEAN Senior Health Officials on Enhancing Cooperation in COVID-19 Pandemic held on 13 March.

Further, participants exchanged technical data on COVID-19 and shared updates and experiences on testing and treatment. A representative from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention discussed the epidemiology and geographic distribution of COVID-19 in China. He also shared technical insights on the dynamics of the transmission, natural history of the disease, virology, transmission mode and transmissibility, containment strategies, contact management, and treatment of cases.

As the co-chair, Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC) Kung Phoak reminded the conference that “this pandemic is a great public health challenge that has been affecting not only health systems of affected countries but also their socio-economic and political security status.”

He expressed that sustained multi-sectoral coordination and cooperation is urgently needed. Given this second virtual meeting and exchange between AMS and China, he lauded the platform and encouraged the promotion of open, timely and transparent dialogue in enhancing cooperation for COVID-19 pandemic response.

Each AMS presented status updates on COVID-19 focusing on prevention, early detection, mitigation and response interventions. These interventions include minimising risk of transmission, enhancing contact tracing and surveillance, case management, reduction of flow of people and limiting imported cases, social distancing, and public engagement and cooperation in preventing transmission.

While recognising that AMS are at different phases of response, and are progressively addressing COVID-19, the conference agreed to continue promoting the exchanges in learning related to the ongoing interventions of AMS and China in responding to COVID -19 and mitigating its impact during the pandemic phase. Activities on enhancing information and experience exchanges through conferences and consultations, and network building were proposed to support regional solidarity and transparency.

Participants agreed on other ways forward that include:

    1. Enhancing capacity building interventions cooperation on public health emergency preparedness and response; including prepositioning of essential medical supplies
    2. sharing of technical information and updates, lessons learnt and good practices to enhance capacities in prevention, detection and response;
    3. strengthening cooperation in risk communication and assessments to support multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral engagement;
    4. strengthening policy dialogue on developments of COVID-19, including drug and vaccine development, security and self-reliance, and other potential health threats;
    5. revisiting whole-of-government and whole-of-society preparedness and response frameworks and plans in addressing the impact of future epidemics on socio-economic development;
    6. establishing sustainable software and hardware in collecting and analysing relevant data to inform preparation and response to all hazards including COVID-19;
    7. further strengthening the existing regional mechanisms or platforms in ASEAN in the prevention, detection and response to health threats.

The Department of Asian Affairs of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ASEAN Secretariat through Office of ASEAN Deputy SG for ASCC co-chaired the conference. Participants came from the SOMHD Focal Points, health experts and representatives from foreign affairs of each AMS; Human Development Directorate; and Health Division of the ASEAN Secretariat. It was a follow-up to the Special Video Conference of ASEAN Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Network and China on Clinical Management held on 20 February 2020.