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ASEAN and Australia told to be cautious of virus reimmergence

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Special ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ meeting via video conference on Tuesday. Cambodia Foreign Ministry

ASEAN and Australia told to be cautious of virus reimmergence

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn called on ASEAN and Australia to take precautions against a second wave of Covid-19.

He said continued efforts are needed to curb the disease, including collaboration on medicines and vaccine development.

Sokhonn’s remarks came at Special ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ meeting via video conference on Tuesday.

“ASEAN and Australia need to stay vigilant of a second wave of infections as countries are beginning to draft their own respective roadmaps for easing restrictions,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release quoted Sokhonn as having said.

Sokhonn said ASEAN and Australia should work together at all levels to develop, test, and scale-up production of safe and affordable medicines and vaccines and ensure their unhindered and timely access to the populations in need.

“We must intensify our joint efforts to defeat this pandemic on all fronts as our respective governments committed at the 73rd World Health Assembly,” he said.

Sokhonn said ASEAN has been very active since the beginning of the crisis by galvanising a collective response, not only between member states but also with external partners.

“The proactive approach can send a clear message that in a time of crisis, the international community needs to ramp up coordinated and collective responses and solidarity,” he said.

The ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers agreed to work with relevant international organisations, especially the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the global community to enhance collective pandemic preparedness and response to long-term impacts.

A press release on the meeting said ASEAN and Australia expressed a strong commitment to having a full and effective implementation of a plan of action for 2020-2024 to produce a coordinated regional response to mitigate health risks and economic and social impacts.

Australian Foreign Minister Hon Marise Payne said on Tuesday that during the meeting she pledged $23 million to help ASEAN strengthen health security, economic recovery, and stability.

“This package complements Australia’s wide-ranging Strategic Partnership with ASEAN and the substantial bilateral work already underway with our Southeast Asian neighbours and our significant contributions to global efforts to fight Covid-19,” she said.

The Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute director Kin Phea told The Post on Wednesday that within the framework, it may be a good lesson that ASEAN can effectively control the spread of Covid-19 compared to other regions.

However, if neglected, he said there could be a second wave of infections, and that Sokhonn’s call was meant to remind the region to be cautious.

“Some countries exchange barbs over the source of the infection. Well, I think if we were to exchange barbs, a solution cannot be found.

“As all nations are facing the challenges they should act to develop medicines and vaccines so less developed countries can afford to heal their people. That’s a good thing,” Phea said.

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