Unity and solidarity for health security

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    LAST week’s Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease held in Vientiane, Laos was an example of how closely the 10-member regional group and China have been cooperating in the fight against COVID-19, the deadly virus that hit this part of the world in the waning hours of 2019.

    In this meeting, both the Philippines and China agreed that friendship and trust between the two countries will be deepened and strengthened after this common struggle to overcome the epidemic.

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. expressed President Duterte and the Filipino people’s high regard and support for China’s effective measures to limit the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. China’s unprecedented measures limited the spread of the virus to only 24 countries as of Feb. 18, 2020 unlike the 2009 H1N1 which spread to 217 countries.

    The World Health Organization has also expressed the appreciation of the institution and its 194 member-countries to China and its decisive response to the COVID-19 crisis at a great sacrifice to its economy to save the rest of the world from a major pandemic. “For that,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyessus said, “China deserves our gratitude and respect…”

    At this point in humanity’s fight against the virus, invaluable knowledge, experience and skill can now be shared, with the aim of developing treatments and vaccines.

    There is so much to learn on how China managed the massive lockdown of disease epicenters, swiftly erected emergency hospitals, monitored suspected cases, mobilized thousands of medical professionals, and other interventions in such short a time.

    Even more will be gained from the unity and enhanced cooperation between ASEAN and China in this area. Other than knowledge and experience, China can also extend assistance in terms of assistance to set up regional emergency facilities in each ASEAN country for massive epidemiological crises such as the COVID-19.

    Closer coordination and cooperation in such epidemiological emergency in the future will prevent unnecessary panic and the proliferation of “fake news.”

    The Philippines and Filipinos should now look to engage more actively in working with China and ASEAN on cross-border health security operations. And to China we say, Zhong Guo, Jiayeow! Wuhan, Jiayeow! (China, Fight On! Wuhan Fight On!).