By JOHARDY IBRAHIM
KUALA LUMPUR 4 August – In the fight against COVID-19 there is no bragging right where a country, relatively successful at the public health end of the battle will still face serious suffering at its economic end - especially if it is an open economy like so many ASEAN countries.
Chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI), Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid said, economies that have been frozen by lockdowns are not going to be open to those easing out of those containment measures which are dependent on cross-border exchange of goods and services.
According to him, interdependence has no greater significance than when fighting a virus which respects no borders and boundaries,” he commented.
CARI hosted the briefings webinar under its COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan Series, titled “How Can ASEAN Bounce Back: Fostering Public Health Safety and Economic Resilience for a Borderless Community in ASEAN.” The session featured Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Health Malaysia.
Tan Sri Munir reminded that in view of the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infection, ASEAN countries must further strengthen ASEAN’s information-sharing mechanism to allow for immediate and accurate information on local conditions.
He said, ASEAN countries must also incentivise the private sector to increase the production of face masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) to a strictly enforced ASEAN standard.
``When the situation begins to improve in the future, ASEAN should also adopt the available technology to develop an ASEAN-wide contact tracing system to support the reopening of borders and resumption of travel and tourism,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Noor Hisham said, as each country in ASEAN is confronted by varying degrees of preparedness and challenges, in-country responses will have to take priority during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, each country should assess its risk and rapidly implement the necessary measures at the appropriate scale to reduce both COVID-19 transmission as well as the economic, public and social impacts,” said Dr. Noor Hisham.
For example, Malaysia opted for targeted testing that focused on high-risk groups instead of the mass-testing. New daily COVID-19 cases in Malaysia came from being the highest in ASEAN within the range of hundreds back in March and April, to within single digits since early July.
``With the daily cases under control, Malaysia currently has the fourth-highest cumulative number of cases in ASEAN, behind Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore,’’ he concluded. – DagangNews.com