（Written by Li Min / Translated by Zhang Jing and Zhao Xinyue）The 3rd China-ASEAN Forum on Health Cooperation (CAFHC) towards a Health Silk Road was held in Nanning, China under the framework of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) on November 24, 2020. “The COVID-19 caused a great loss to the whole world and left a huge impact on economic growth. People are increasingly concerned about health, and paying more attention to the relationship between economic security and health. I think that this creates a unique opportunity that we could make changes so as to meet future challenges,” said Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.
The 3rd CAFHC was one of the practices in implementing the Joint Statement on the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease. The Forum brought the focus on epidemic issues, harvested new achievements in China-ASEAN health cooperation, and reached a consensus to “fight together against the COVID-19”, in addition to forwarding the “Chinese Initiative” for future China-ASEAN health cooperation.
In fighting against the COVID-19, China-ASEAN health cooperation achieved new fruits
Health cooperation has become an important area of China-ASEAN cooperation. The CAFHC was built from scratch. It has developed a mature mechanism for health ministers’ meeting, senior officials’ meeting and the Forum on Health Cooperation, an important platform for exchange and cooperation.
“We have found during the epidemic that China and ASEAN share weal and woe in health and medical care. Since the outbreak, China and ASEAN took the lead in regional cooperation to fight against the COVID-19, and worked together to overcome the impacts by the epidemic by economic and trade cooperation to keep stable economic growth, which further manifested the solid foundation of China-ASEAN health cooperation,” said Ma Xiaowei, Director of the National Health Commission of China.
Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN, also made a positive comment on the effects of the China-ASEAN health cooperation mechanism in this collective fight against the epidemic. He said that China and ASEAN worked together on virus prevention and detection and actively shared and updated key technologies and information through various health platforms in ASEAN ranging from genome sequence, and treatment experience to prevention and control measures.
The 3rd CAFHC was one of the measures to strengthen China-ASEAN cooperation on fighting against the COVID-19. The Forum has attracted a lot of attention since the stage of preparation. Due to the COVID-19, the Forum was held both online and offline under the theme of “Build a China-ASEAN Community of Shared Health with Unity and Cooperation”. Many practical results were achieved in the Forum such as the publishing of Initiative of the 3rd China-ASEAN Forum on Health Cooperation and the signing of the implementation plan of China-Indonesia health cooperation.
It is reported that two panel sessions of “Health Emergency Cooperation” and “Food Safety and Nutrition Health Cooperation” were also held at this Forum. Guests and scholars from ASEAN countries communicated and shared a lot of information in such fields as epidemic prevention and control, stomatology, traditional medicine, hospital management, health emergency, food safety, and nutrition health. The China-ASEAN Health Cooperation Forum Achievements Exhibition was also held at the same time.
Strong wills and passionate voices in facing the challenges brought by the COVID-19
Although the epidemic is raging, it neither closes the cooperation channels of China-ASEAN Health Cooperation nor curbs the passion in cooperation. On the contrary, these countries have stronger will to enforce the health cooperation. At the 3rd Health Cooperation Forum, delegations from China, ASEAN countries, and regional international organizations were all led by ministerial officials, making it the most successful forum with the largest number of participants and ministerial officials. The Forum witnessed the urgent calls of all parties for unity and cooperation in coping with the COVID-19 and expecting vaccines and new cooperation mechanisms.
“Disease knows no borders, and international cooperation needs to be carried out to make a more resilient and cohesive international community. The COVID-19 epidemic has caused a huge impact on the economy and society, from which we can see that the health issue is critical to the development. The key and priority of economic recovery is to realize a full medical care coverage,” said Francisco Duque, Philippine Secretary of Health.
People should seek for harmony and unity. The COVID-19 gave a special warning to the world. People all over the globe share the weal and woe. Yu Xuejun, Deputy Director of China’s National Health Commission, said, “Confronted with such a crucial crisis, no country can overcome the epidemic on its own. Therefore, unity and cooperation are the key. We should adhere to opening and cooperation in fighting against epidemic, resuming work and production and restoring the economy.
With a significant progress in the research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine, all countries are eagerly looking forward to the volume production and mass use of the vaccine. According to Bounkong Syhavong, Lao Minister of Health, they look forward to further cooperation with other ASEAN member states and China to promote the birth of the COVID-19 vaccine. Anutin Charnirakul, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister said, “People all over the world need the COVID-19 vaccine urgently. Hence, China-ASEAN should strengthen cooperation to ensure that the vaccine can benefit all the people fairly and impartially.
In the post-epidemic era, the work and production resumption has become an urgent issue. According to Lim Jock Hoi, ASEAN is formulating the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Recovery of ASEAN and looking forward to China’s support. Dato Sri Dr Adham bin Baba, Malaysia’s Minister of Health, showed his expectation to build the ASEAN regional medical supplies reserve center and the ASEAN public health emergency and emerging disease center in the future, for fear that the epidemic will lay more burdens on the medical system. What’s more, they will be well-prepared for other epidemic diseases in the future.
“The world is right at a turning point, while the COVID-19 will not be the last or the most serious epidemic in the world. In response to ever-changing health threats, we must adjust and innovate our strategy and improve policy flexibility, in order to enable a better and healthier life,” said Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s Minister of Health.
“Chinese Initiative” to enhance China-ASEAN health cooperation
On the basis of earlier achievements, Ma Xiaowei has put forward three initiatives according to the future development of China-ASEAN Health Cooperation.
The first initiate emphasizes actively docking health development strategy and promoting regional health development. According to Ma Xiaowei, China is willing to conduct full exchanges with ASEAN on health development strategy and planning, to further promote the integration of ASEAN Health Development Agenda after 2015 and Program for the Health of China in 2030, and to give full play to the advantage of traditional medicine in this region. That is how we can strengthen the construction of health system, improve the level of the entire health coverage and jointly promote the implementation of the health related objections in UN Sustainable Development Agenda.
The second initiative aims to strengthen joint prevention and control of infectious diseases to better safeguard regional safety and health. China is ready to work with ASEAN to further strengthen the communication and coordination of public health emergency strategies. We explore the establishment of China-ASEAN public health emergency contact network to notifying and sharing information. Furthermore, we also carry out health emergency joint drills to improve the core capacity of the International Health Regulations and the ability to deal with public health emergencies. We should make joint efforts to handle with the health and safety challenges of emerging infectious diseases and cross-border public health emergency.
According to Ma Xiaowei, the third initiative is to deepen personnel training and technology cooperation to promote regional health innovation. China will actively promote the COVID-19 vaccine to become a public product in the world, and meet ASEAN’s needs after the completion and application of the vaccine. China has joined the implementation plan of COVID-19 vaccine, and it will contribute US$ 20 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization in the next five years to promote the accessibility and affordability of vaccines through real action and contribute to the promotion personnel mobility in this region and economic recovery.
These initiatives are responses to some ASEAN countries’ concerns in docking health development strategy and vaccine research and development, and they also expressed these countries’ sincerity in fighting against the epidemic and transmitted a positive energy of opening and cooperation.
China-ASEAN should face with the epidemic crisis through cooperation. Just as Ge Xijian said, “Only when the people in this world are safe shall we be truly safe.”
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama