ASEAN, EU work closely in COVID-19 fight hinh anh 1Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, in his capacity as ASEAN 2020 Chair, delivers a speech at an ASEAN-EU ministerial teleconference on cooperation in coping with the epidemic on March 20. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, in his capacity as ASEAN 2020 Chair, delivered a speech at an ASEAN-EU ministerial teleconference on cooperation in coping with the epidemic on March 20.

Following is the full text of his speech.

Excellencies Dr. Vivian Balakrisnan and Dr. Lam Pin Min,

High Representative Josef Borrell and Commissioner Janez Lenarcic, Colleagues from ASEAN and the EU,

Greetings from Hanoi!

1. Thank you very much, Minister Vivian and Dr. Lam and your team for arranging this video conference between ASEAN and the EU on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

I fully share the remarks by the Co-chairs. Indeed, no country or region is immune to the impact of COVID-19. It is the right time for ASEAN and the EU to strengthen our active cooperation in response to COVID-19.

I thank Dato’ Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN, for his comprehensive briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the ASEAN region and actions undertaken by ASEAN sectoral bodies.

2. ASEAN Member States were among the first countries that recorded cases of COVID-19 infections. With past experience in dealing with the SARS outbreak in 2003, ASEAN has acted fast and pro-actively, both by individual Member State and through coordinated actions of the ASEAN Community.

As the ASEAN Chair 2020, Vietnam has been working closely with other ASEAN Member States in advancing a multi-sectoral approach to enhance ASEAN’s preparedness and responsive measures to combat the disease and minimise its impacts. Our ongoing concerted efforts against this pandemic have shown a truly “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”.

- On 14 February 2020, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, upon consultations with Leaders of ASEAN Member States, has issued an ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on ASEAN Collective response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

- On 20 February 2020, Vietnam has convened a Special Meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to discuss practical measures to move forward ASEAN’s collective approach to mitigate and subsequently eliminate the threats of the COVID-19.

- Regular exchange of information and daily updates have also been enhanced among ASEAN Member States. The public can find rapid and necessary information update on new confirmed cases, measures taken at the national level and a list of national hotline numbers  and contacts in ASEAN Member States.

- ASEAN has also strengthened various forms of cooperation with our external partners in addressing the COVID-19, which includes the recent special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on 20 February in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

I strongly believe that our Video Conference today will be another significant contribution to those efforts along that line.

There are some encouraging results thank to such timely efforts. Out of the 650 million population, the rate of infectious cases in ASEAN is less than 0.001 percent (2.179 cases) and 12 percent of infected patients has been successfully cured. Despite the growing number of infections, the fatality rate accounts for only 2.07 percent of total cases.

But the situation is still worrisome and much more to be done.

Excellencies and Colleagues,

3. As the UN Secretary-General has rightly pointed out yesterday, we are facing a global health and human crisis that calls for solidarity.

Each country, each region may have our own way to deal with this crisis. But I believe that, acting alone is not an option, and will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis.

Therefore, as the two leading organisations of two regions, there are much that the EU and ASEAN can do together to demonstrate our abilities to overcome emerging challenges through joint actions and efforts, to the ultimate end of protecting the live of our people.

Allow me to share my thoughts on the priorities for our cooperation:

First, to promote policy coordination, information exchange, technical assistance and health care resources where appropriate.

As our struggle is going on, we can share with each other good experiences and best practices to detect, test, quarantine, trace and control community transmission.

With your advanced public health systems, research and technology capacilities, EU can cooperate and assist ASEAN in developing effective preventive and treatment methodologies, including vaccines and drugs research and development.

Our ASEAN Health sector colleagues represented here shall be the focal points of ASEAN in collaboration with their EU counterparts in this public health specific aspect.

Information exchange and sharing should be kept constant throughout the course of our fight against the pandemic. 

Second, as we place the people first in the fight against the pandemic, it is important for all governments to ensure the safety of our nationals who are in areas affected by COVID-19.

Efforts should be strengthened to temporarily restrict the peoples’ movement that can worsen the spread of the virus through proper risk communications.

On the other hand, ASEAN and the EU can work together to assure that our nationals who stay or work in each other’s regions are provided with necessary information on appropriate health safety measures and if they get infected, they will be duly treated.

Third, since the pandemic is taking a heavy toll on our socities and economies, we need to strike a sound balance between protecting public health and minimising socio-economic disruption.

The EU and ASEAN are each other’s leading trading, investment and tourism partners. Let’s act together and coordinate policy measures to minimize supply chain disruptions, gradually restore tourism and business as usual, prevent weaker demands and spill-over effects to other sectors of the economy and society.

We should also take joint actions to ensure the outbreak of COVID-19 can not divide peoples through xenophobia and discrimination, but will unite us further.

4. Speaking for Vietnam, we were among the first ASEAN Member States being affected by COVID-19 and we have indeed been going through a hard time.

The Government has spared no effort to: first prevent the spread of the virus; second, treat those infected, Vietnamese or other nationals, help them recover; and third, striving to maintain the stability of the economy and our society.

So far, we are able to maintain a low number of cases of infections in Vietnam. Through undertaking a set of coherent measures, various positive outcomes have been recorded: the first 16 patients infected with the virus were all cured and remain in stable and healthy condition; the rest of the infected peoples are under treatment (we provide equal treatment to infected patients be they Vietnamese or foreign nationals); suspected cases and those with close contacts and travellers from outbreak areas are quarantined.

5. Vietnam will stand united with ASEAN and our partners, the WHO and the international community toward the complete control and subsequent elimination of the threats from COVID-19.

I thank you./.