ASEAN’s unity vital to overcome COVID-19 challenges: Malaysian FM hinh anh 1Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. (Photo: Bernama)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – The unity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has enabled it to collectively overcome challenges, ranging from global financial crises to climate change, to natural disasters and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said.

In his message in conjunction with the 54th ASEAN Day (August 8), he said since early 2020, ASEAN has taken proactive steps through a series of engagements and information exchanges among member states and external partners to enhance regional capabilities in prevention, detection, response and readiness to address the outbreak, the Bernama news agency reported.

ASEAN has implemented several strategies and frameworks to face the imminent rise of COVID-19, while mitigating its impact on our economy and ensuring the well-being of our people, Hishammuddin said.

He said the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) was adopted during the 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summit in November 2020 serves as a guide for strategic directions and focus for pandemic recovery and support in ASEAN.

Through the ACRF, several broad strategies were formulated which include enhancing regional health systems, strengthening human security, maximising the potential of intra-ASEAN market and broader economic integration as well as accelerate inclusive digital transformation.

All these strategies were implemented within the existing frameworks of ASEAN, with support from all its external partners, he said.

To accelerate the recovery following the pandemic, the FM said ASEAN has embarked on an effort to address the shortages of test kits, personal protective equipment, and vaccines through the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund.

Serving as a pool of financial resources, the fund would assist all ASEAN member states in the detection, control and prevention of Covid-19 transmissions as well as ensuring the safety of our medical workers and frontliners, he said.

He said the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework whose objectives are to revive and reinvigorate economic activities was formulated with an aim to facilitate the movement of essential business travelers within ASEAN, while strictly observing health protocols.

He said the pandemic’s impact on mental could no longer be ignored and it is another aspect that ASEAN is seriously looking into.

Acknowledging the importance of mental health, Hishammuddin said ASEAN and its partners had embarked on several initiatives to share experiences, exchange information on best practices, as well as formulate policies to address the issue.

ASEAN is working hand-in-hand with the public, experts and civil society organisations in finding the best possible solutions to mitigate the issue of mental health.

Hishammuddin said as vaccination is the most viable tool to emerge victorious from the pandemic, ASEAN continues to call for fair and equitable vaccine distribution to all nations./.