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|As ASEAN chair, Vietnam takes tackling the nCoV epidemic very seriously Photo: AFP|
Informing the media about Vietnam’s activities in the role of the ASEAN chairmanship related to the coronavirus, or nCoV, epidemic, Le Thi Thu Hang, spokesperson for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week reaffirmed that the country would fulfil its membership obligations and assume strong responsibility of the ASEAN in 2020.
“Vietnam is actively deploying disease control responses and proposing a co-ordinated response to the epidemic, while continuing to closely monitor its evolution. Moreover, the country is ensuring that ASEAN events take place safely and are guaranteed the highest security,” Hang stated.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, as chair of the ASEAN Coordinating Council, sent a letter to ASEAN member states, rousing the spirit of co-ordination and joint action against the nCoV epidemic. Vietnam has proposed the ASEAN to establish a joint ministerial working group with the participation of agencies on transport, immigration, and border control as well as consular issues, and will soon organise online meetings to share information and co-operate with ASEAN member countries, demonstrating the bloc’s strong solidarity.
The action was highly appreciated by ASEAN members, particularly while the disease has impacted six countries in the region – Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cambodia.
Indonesia, along with Vietnam, is also a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2020-2021 tenure. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc held a phone call with Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week about co-operation between ASEAN countries in order to deal with acute respiratory infections caused by the new strain of coronavirus.
PM Phuc expressed his appreciation of Indonesia as one of the countries that has rapidly implemented measures to prevent the disease before detecting a case of nCoV so far.
Meanwhile, President Widodo highly appreciated the Vietnamese government for taking quick and synchronised measures to prevent the spread of the disease, believing that under the close direction of PM Phuc and with Vietnam’s proven medical capacity, the country is fully capable of successfully preventing the disease from spreading further.
The two leaders agreed that ASEAN member countries should actively co-ordinate in the spirit of the bloc’s theme of being cohesive and responsive, aiming to find common solutions, and sharing responsibility for dealing with common regional diseases. ASEAN countries have valuable experiences from tackling the SARS outbreak in 2003, thus leaders said it is necessary to continue to be more proactive in fighting the nCoV epidemic.
The two heads also agreed to strengthen co-ordination not only in the ASEAN but also between the ASEAN and China, including consular support for citizens of member countries affected by the epidemic.
As of Saturday afternoon, data from Vietnam’s Ministry of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections in the world hit over 34,900, while the number of deaths has reached 724.
Late last week there were seven new cases detected in the ASEAN region, mainly from Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, bringing the total of infected cases in Singapore to 33, in Malaysia to 15 and in Vietnam to 13.
One of the recent new cases in Singapore was exposed to a previously confirmed case of virus infection while at least one other case did not go to mainland China or was related to previous cases. Meanwhile, one of the new cases in Malaysia was a female Chinese tourist from Wuhan.
Two of the recent cases in Vietnam were a mother and younger sister of a patient who got infected after coming back from Wuhan.
So far, most localities in Vietnam have lengthened the time for students to get one more week off from school. Besides that, the country has also publicly announced the suspension of entry for foreigners coming from 31 vulnerable areas in China.
In Singapore, one coronavirus patient has been discharged from hospital. Last Friday, the country implemented a second flight to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and take them to isolation.