Duterte: Asean should be ready for future pandemics
MANILA, Philippines — Warning that the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) would not be the last pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte pressed Southeast Asian nations to expand the region’s existing mechanisms to respond to public health emergencies.
The President made the call in a special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on the COVID-19, a meeting of state leaders held for the first time over virtual platforms.
“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic the world will face.We have to be ready for future outbreaks. We therefore have to improve and expand existing Asean’s mechanisms to cover public health emergencies,” Duterte urged his fellow leaders via video conferencing.
The President pointed out that while measures implemented by member-nations address the “here and now” issues, such measures were not enough and that the Asean must “look ahead.”
Early warning system eyed
He went on: “Specifically, we should establish an early warning system for pandemics in the region. This is something vital and concrete that we can do in a collective manner.”
The President also welcomed Thailand’s proposal to establish a COVID-19 Asean response fund and expressed support for research and development initiatives in developing a vaccine or treatment for the illness.
“Without a vaccine or a cure, we can only delay the spread of the disease. But containment, in whatever form and degree, will have staggering socioeconomic implications for all of us. It is therefore imperative that we support vaccine and research and development initiatives,” he said.
Duterte added: “For its part, the Philippines is ready to join solidarity with clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment.”
The entire Asean has a total of 19,887 cases with 844 deaths and 5,077 recoveries as of Monday.
The Philippines tops the list with 5,223 COVID-19 infections, 335 deaths and 295 recoveries. Laos was the least affected with only 19 cases and no death.
This year’s Asean summit was hosted by Vietnam.
During the special Asean summit on COVID-19, Mr. Duterte described the COVID-19 crisis as an “unprecedented, devastaisting and unfolding catastrophe” that is “upending the totality of our way of life” and “threatens to exact the highest tolls on our peoples and our economies.”
The President noted that the decision of nations to implement lockdowns and close borders created barriers for mobility and trade, while necessary,
“could drive our societies and the larger international community further apart.”
He urged the region to cooperate for an “effective, strategic response” and collaborate within the region and beyond, instead of “retreating from the regional and global connections.”
In particular, the President stressed the need to increase the production of vital medicines, medical equipment and supplies and to allow the intraregional trade of these.
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