ASEAN+3 sets up virus response fund

The ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus China, Japan, and South Korea have agreed to a proposal by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand to establish a joint fund to battle the coronavirus pandemic across the region.

The leaders agreed to the proposal during a virtual summit held last week through video conferencing. They viewed a regional response as the most effective approach to stopping the spread of the coronavirus because, in a connected world, no country is immune or has been spared from the pandemic.

“We will overcome the Covid-19 crisis together,” Prime Minister Prayut said after the summit. He added that partnerships and sustainability principles would aid countries in coping with the public health emergency.

The leaders established the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund, which will draw on resources from the ASEAN Development Fund and cooperation funds from China, Japan, and South Korea. The amount of money earmarked for the fund was not specified. In addition, member countries agreed to set up a reserve medical supply center.

Pooling resources ensures that every member country will be able to secure test kits, personal protective equipment, medical equipment, and other tools and services needed in response to the pandemic without concern for costs. Some of the money will also be used to support research to produce a vaccine.

ASEAN has a track record of cooperation in responding to pandemics and public health emergencies, such as in 2003, when they adopted joint measures to contain the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

Viet Nam is the chair country of ASEAN this year, and Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc praised the grouping’s fight against the virus so far. He said Covid-19 “has badly impacted people’s lives, their socio-economic situation … challenging stability and social security.”

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