Southeast Asia exerts great efforts for safe coexistence with the pandemic

As one of the regions most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast Asia is gradually shaping a more effective anti-epidemic formula.

Disinfecting a mosque in Surabaya City, East Java Province, Indonesia in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: Reuters)
Disinfecting a mosque in Surabaya City, East Java Province, Indonesia in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: Reuters)

With the perception that COVID-19 will not disappear in the short term, the Indonesian Government has built a “transitional roadmap”, viewing COVID-19 as an endemic disease, instead of a pandemic. Depending on the development of the epidemic, the roadmap will be adjusted to achieve the expectation of balancing health care and ensuring economic development. In order to keep the strategy on track, the Government of Indonesia emphasises the importance of increasing vaccine coverage; stepping up testing, tracing and treatment, while strictly implementing health regulations.

Sharing the same view, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said that in the context of the Delta variant spreading, blockades are no longer an appropriate measure to prevent the epidemic. In the first phase of the National Recovery Plan, Malaysia will reopen 11 business sectors. The Malaysian government made the above decision after assessing the risks and considering itsprogress of vaccine coverage. Malaysia aims to fully vaccinate 75% of adults against COVID-19 by the end of October.

The Philippine Government also announced a pilot plan for regional social distancing in the capital Manila, starting from September 16. Five warning levels will be issued to determine the extent to which businesses are allowed operate. Instead of being city-wide, distancing orders are to be applied to specific buildings, streets, or neighbourhoods. The anti-epidemic formula in Manila, if successful, will be expanded nationwide. The Philippine Government will also ensure that there are enough COVID-19 vaccines for its more than 100 million people from now until the end of the year.

On the regional scale, together with strategies at national level, ASEAN has also actively promoted its inherent strengths as a united region, actively strengthening intra-regional cooperation, promptly reacting collectively to the impact of the epidemic. The COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, the ASEAN reserve stockpile of essential medical supplies, the ASEAN Strategic Framework for Public Health Emergencies and the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework have been implemented, highlighting the spirit of the ASEAN Community.

Most recently, at the 53rd ASEAN Economic Ministers’Meeting, countries adopted a roadmap on digital transformation, in order to accelerate regional economic recovery and digital economic integration. With practical steps, ASEAN and its member countries are demonstrating their ability to be proactive and adapt to challenges.