JAKARTA, 30 January 2020 – The Health Sector of ASEAN together with counterparts from the People’s Republic of China, Japan and Republic of Korea have mobilised regional cooperation mechanisms to respond to the rapidly-evolving threats of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), since China reported the first cluster of unexplained pneumonia cases in late December 2019.

These mechanisms reinforce national whole-of-government efforts to enhance readiness and response measures to mitigate, if not eliminate, the threats of the 2019-nCoV and to protect the 649 million people in the ASEAN region[1]. So far, the virus has killed 132 persons in China, and infected around 6,000 persons in China and 15 other countries[2].

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 2019-nCoV 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.

ASEAN Member States also exchanged laboratory readiness and response actions in relation to the 2019-nCoV through the Regional Public Health Laboratories Network led by Thailand. Current national risk communication actions to disseminate preventive and control measures, including combating false news and information circulated in the social media, have also benefited from the preparedness and capacity building programmes of the ASEAN Risk Assessment and Risk Communication Centre hosted by Malaysia.

As the 2019-nCoV continues to rapidly evolve, ASEAN Member States have committed to continue to utilise and strengthen regional mechanisms for coordination and cooperation in response to this emerging public health threat.

A special video conference among ASEAN and Plus Three SOMHD, together with Country Coordinators of ASEAN Health Cluster 2 on Responding to All Hazards and Emerging Threats, Contact Points of ASEAN EOC Network, ASEAN+3 FETN, and WHO representatives, is scheduled early next week to discuss the latest situation and the prevention, detection and response priorities to address the 2019-nCoV threat at global, ASEAN and national levels.

These mechanisms and initiatives have been led by AMS and guided by the Governance and Implementation Mechanism of the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda, as well as realised through cooperation with Development and Dialogue Partners. 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.

Relevant Links:

[1] ASEAN Statistical Yearbook 2019, number of mid-year population as of 2018

[2] WHO Situation Report 9. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)