JAKARTA, 4 February 2020 – Senior health officials of ASEAN Member States and their counterparts from the People’s Republic of China, Japan and Republic of Korea (Plus Three Countries) reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance coordination and cooperation to prevent and control the spread of the 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
This is in light of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaration on 30 January that the situation is a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).”
The reaffirmation was made at the Special Video Conference of the ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) on 2019-nCoV, held on 3 February. At this conference, the health officials shared information, technical updates, and current challenges in the prevention, preparedness and response measures undertaken by each of the countries.
They also discussed the current challenges in the response as well as the regional measures to facilitate a sustained, more coordinated and harmonised collective action. The video conference also involved the WHO which provided an overview of the current situation and recommended priority measures following the PHEIC declaration.
Further information was shared on national coordination and management through the activation of multi-sectoral, whole-of-government committees to lead the national response, as well as activation of public health emergency operations centres to coordinate health system response. The senior officials also discussed measures on risk assessments, risk communication, public awareness including addressing rumours and misinformation; on laboratory preparedness and response; on surveillance and case management; and on control at points of entry, including measures for returning nationals; and other public health measures.
They acknowledged the timely sharing of updates, technical information and strategic interventions by each ASEAN Member State and the Plus Three countries through the ASEAN Secretariat and existing regional health mechanisms. They also stressed the importance of using existing regional health mechanisms put in place by the ASEAN Health Sector Cooperation that include:
- ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting for Health Development (APT SOMHD) currently chaired by Cambodia
- ASEAN Emergency Operations Centre Network for public health emergencies (ASEAN EOC Network) led by Malaysia
- ASEAN Plus Three Field Epidemiology Training Network (ASEAN+3 FETN) currently chaired by Malaysia and coordinated by Thailand;
- ASEAN BioDiaspora Virtual Centre for big data analytics and visualization (ABVC) led by Philippines;
- ASEAN Risk Assessment and Risk Communication Centre (ARARC) led by Malaysia;
- Public health laboratories network under the purview of ASEAN Health Cluster 2 on Responding to All Hazards and Emerging Threats; and,
- Regional Public Health Laboratories Network (RPHL) led by Thailand through the Global Health Security Agenda platform
The need for more research on various specific aspects of the 2019-nCoV that are still unknown such as those relating to infectious period, contact rate, and mode of transmission was pointed out. The sharing of critical epidemiologic investigations and risk assessments was highlighted to better understand the virus and extent of the outbreak.
As the 2019-nCoV continues to evolve, the officials also agreed to continue technical exchanges and sharing of experiences through the sharing of guidelines and materials on prevention and treatment, diagnosis and treatment, risk communication and public awareness, and the conduct of follow-up video conferences at SOMHD/ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM) levels.
Further, the conference noted the proposal of China to exchange experiences, technical information, good practices and lessons learned on the 2019-nCoV outbreak response through a regional forum later this year, to strengthen human resources in health emergency preparedness and response through workshops, and to further strengthen cooperation and collaboration with the ASEAN EOC Network for public health emergencies.
The special video conference was chaired by Cambodia, incumbent chair of AHMM and SOMHD, and hosted by Malaysia, as lead country of the ASEAN EOC Network for public health emergencies.