Hanoi (VNA) – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as the Chairman of ASEAN in 2020, chaired the Special ASEAN and ASEAN 3 Summits on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the form of video conference on April 14.
On this occasion, the PM has granted an interview on the outcomes of these two important events.
Asked about the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed to ASEAN in general and the Vietnam ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020 in particular, PM Phuc stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge to humankind and an unprecedented global crisis since after the Second World War, and also the biggest challenge to the ASEAN during its more than half a century history of formation and development. After only over three months, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused devastating losses of human health and life as well as social and economic aspects, which are predicted to far surpass the impact of the 1997 financial crisis in Asia or the global crisis in 2008-2009, he said.
He noted that at this moment, all countries in the ASEAN region have had COVID-19 infections with more than 18,000 cases and over 740 deaths.
“Not only causing great human loss, the pandemic also seriously affected all aspects of socio-economic life in ASEAN countries and cooperation and exchange activities among ASEAN members as well as between ASEAN and its partners. All ASEAN countries are forecast to suffer from strong decrease in growth, and some will even have negative growth. Regarding ASEAN cooperation, statistics of the ASEAN Secretariat showed more than 200 meetings of the bloc had to be postponed or cancelled,” PM Phuc said.
He went on to say that right from the beginning of this year, as Chair of ASEAN, Vietnam, together with other member countries, has actively and urgently made preparations for and got ready to organize activities during the ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020. However, with the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impacts on all fields, we had to make necessary adjustments to the plans for those activities.
According to the PM, with the motto of putting people’s health first, maintaining connectivity and close coordination in preventing and fighting the epidemic, ASEAN member countries have organised many important ministerial-level meetings in the form of video conference, as well as meetings with partners such as China, the EU, the US and important international organisations like the WHO to share experience and help for the effective response to the epidemic. He added that at the same time, we continue to consider holding important ASEAN events when the epidemic is put under control.
PM Phuc highlighted the quickly response of ASEAN member nations to the COVID-19 pandemic since its outbreak, saying that they have enhanced cohesion in policy and action coordination to effectively contain the spread of the disease.
“Vietnam early issued an ASEAN Chair’s Statement on the bloc’s collective response to COVID-19 (on February 14) and held many important meetings among ASEAN member states and between the group with its partners to ensure concerted coordination in epidemic prevention, and to share experience and support to effectively cope with the pandemic”, he said.
The PM called for closer cooperation and solidarity among ASEAN countries to fight the pandemic, saying that “if we unite, no danger can subdue us”.
“I think that individual efforts need to be reunited, becoming a joint action of the ASEAN Community”, he stressed.
Timely response and close coordination in policy and action among the 10 ASEAN member countries will be the decisive factor in containing the epidemic, he said.
Apart from controlling the disease, ASEAN also needs to pay special attention to minimizing socio-economic impacts caused by the pandemic, PM Phuc said.
It is necessary to take people as the centre and ensure social security in the region, leaving no one behind, he noted.
In the immediate future, what needs to be done is to provide timely support to disadvantaged groups and financial and economic support packages for businesses to help them stabilise their production and business, and maintain trade activities, he went on.
In the long run, each ASEAN member nation and the whole Community need to enhance their resilience and preparedness for future shocks, PM Phuc said, adding that promoting connection and intertwined interests, and reducing development gap among member would be the long-term solutions to challenges similar to COVID-19.
PM Phuc expressed his belief that ASEAN will soon overcome the pandemic which he said will create a motivation for member nations to grow stronger together.
PM Phuc underlined that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that the theme “Cohesive and Responsive” that Vietnam has chosen for its ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020 is timely and completely right. Efforts by Vietnam as ASEAN Chair over the past time have reflected the spirit of the theme and that Vietnam has really turned words into specific actions.
“Joining hands in stamping out COVID-19 is the top priority of ASEAN. The way we are working together to tackle the pandemic will affirm the mettle and strength of the grouping,” he said.
Assuming the ASEAN Chairmanship in this especially hard time, Vietnam is deeply aware of its responsibility and resolved to stand side by side with other member countries to sail over the crisis. Right after the pandemic broke out, Vietnam has proactively taken swift actions, led and coordinated joint efforts of ASEAN, while cooperating with partners in containing and stemming the spread of the disease and mitigating its socio-economic impacts.
The PM mentioned some specific actions, first of all the early issue of the Statement of the ASEAN Chair on the grouping’s collective response to COVID-19 in a timely manner, warning about the pandemic threat at an early date, calling for regional and international cooperation, emphasizing the spirit of intra-bloc solidarity and committing to joining hands in containing and preventing the spread of the disease, thus ensuring a safe life for the public.
Secondly, Vietnam has flexibly pushed for the organisation of ASEAN meetings in the videoconferencing format. The solution helps the group maintain connectivity, close and comprehensive coordination, and prompt response to COVID-19. The meetings focused on three action orientations – information and experience sharing, policy and action coordination.
Thirdly, as ASEAN Chair, Vietnam have made efforts to enhance cooperation with other countries and international organisations in order to raise the efficiency of the fight against the pandemic, coordinated and joined many important meetings with such partners as China, the EU, the US, the WHO and the online G20 Summit to discuss cooperation for the early control of the epidemic.
Such tireless efforts of Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN have brought about initial results in pandemic prevention and control, PM Phuc said, expressing his belief that together with countries and partners in and outside ASEAN, Vietnam’s efforts will contribute to duplicating good experience and lessons so that the region and the world soon stamp out the pandemic./.
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