JAKARTA, 7 April 2020 – ASEAN and Plus Three Health Ministers of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (APTHMM) convened through a special video conference to reaffirm their collaboration in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The APTHMM was co-chaired by Indonesia, chair of the ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting, and Japan as chair of the APTHMM. Both co-chairs led the sharing of relevant updates on the COVID-19 response and discussions to strengthen national and regional responses of the pandemic.

The presentations highlighted the importance of adhering to effective public health measures that are supplemented by evidence and policy-based prevention and control interventions. The conference also addressed social and mitigation measures including safety nets for those affected by the virus.

Based on ASEAN Plus Three country experiences, some of the recommendations shared include the need to:

  1. Work together to explore sustainable solutions to deal with the crisis and to learn from experiences to strengthen preparedness for future pandemics;
  2. Control the infection to prevent overwhelming health systems and frontline health workers;
  3. Ensure supply chain connectivity to ensure that healthcare workers have access to critical supplies and equipment;
  4. Leverage existing regional networking platforms to effectively source medical supplies and equipment for procurement;
  5. Control the spread of the disease while minimizing socio-economic impact to peoples and their livelihoods.

Specific approaches taken by Plus Three countries to tackle COVID-19 include China’s broad application of high-tech methods and the active use of traditional Chinese medicine; Japan’s intervention to engage and strengthen capacity of local governments to control the outbreak based on local situation data; and Republic of Korea’s efficient and creative measures utilising cutting edge technology such as the Self-Diagnosis mobile app and drive-thru and walk-thru screening clinics.

Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi underscored that with the increasing cases of COVID-19 and government responses being challenged, ASEAN Plus Three should affirm that the population’s health is of paramount importance regardless of geographical, geopolitical and economic status. He added that ASEAN Plus Three Leaders must tackle the challenges collectively and leave no one behind.

At the conference, the ASEAN Plus Three Health Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate the sharing of information on rapid research and development of diagnostics, antiviral medicines and vaccines. They also aimed to provide assistance in sustaining affected national health systems in the region and improving the readiness of others as well as use publicly well-known digital technologies for efficient exchange of information. The last video conference facilitated through the ASEAN Plus Three platform was held in 3 February, where Senior Health Officials on Health Development focused on information and experience exchange and discussions on COVID-19 prevention, detection and response.

The full text of the Joint Statement can be accessed here

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