COVID-19 high on agenda at 36th ASEAN Summit: foreign media hinh anh 1Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the press conference following the 36th ASEAN Summit on June 26 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Many foreign news agencies covered the teleconferenced 36th ASEAN Summit chaired by Vietnam on June 26, highlighting COVID-19 as one of its focuses.

Notably, AP reported that the event aimed to show unity and discuss a regional emergency fund to respond to the immense crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

The news agency said the ASEAN leaders talked online due to regional travel restrictions and health risks that delayed dozens of meetings and shut out the ceremonial sessions, group handshakes and photo-ops that have been the trademark of the 10-nation bloc’s annual summits.

Despite this, Vietnam still organised a colorful opening ceremony with traditional songs and dances in Hanoi for about 200 Vietnamese officials and foreign diplomats. They showed up without masks and sat close to each other while the heads of state watched remotely on their screens, the article wrote.

AP also cited Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is a test for ASEAN, and it is fanning the flame of dormant challenges in the political, economic and social environment and helping escalate frictions among major powers.

Southeast Asian nations have been impacted by the pandemic differently, with hard-hit Indonesia grappling with more than 50,000 infections and more than 2,600 deaths, and the tiny state of Laos reporting just 19 cases. The diverse region of 650 million people, however, has been an Asian COVID-19 hot spot, with a combined total of more than 138,000 confirmed cases that have well surpassed those of China, where the outbreak started.

The economic toll has been harsh, with ASEAN’s leading economies, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, facing one of their most severe recessions in decades, according to the news agency.

AP noted that a high-priority project was the establishment of an ASEAN COVID-19 response fund which could be used to help member states purchase medical supplies and protective suits. A regional stockpile of medical supplies has also been approved./.