SINGAPORE – ASEAN ministers called for standardized health and travel protocols at a regional forum to discuss the impact of Covid-19.
Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin stressed the need to reform the global health architecture, establish an aid-sharing mechanism and standardize health protocols between countries on the first day of the ASEAN Special Ministerial Conference for Digital Public Health. The event will be held virtually on Wednesday (October 6) and Thursday.
Countries today have different travel requirements in the event of a pandemic. Mr Budi said the Asean should have a common health passport or a digital platform, such as the TraceTogether app, to make it easier to reopen travel.
Similar to Singapore’s TraceTogether, Indonesia has a contact finder app that has been downloaded and installed by over 60 million Indonesians, he added.
He also highlighted the role of the private sector, such as telemedicine start-ups that have been mobilized by the Indonesian government to help with teleconsultations and home delivery of drugs to confirmed cases that do not require hospitalization.
He stressed the goal of doubling the number of Indonesians vaccinated from 150 million to 300 million by the end of this year.
A September report from the Asean Biodiaspora Virtual Center showed that at least 80 percent of the high-risk population of Asean has been vaccinated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and at least 65 percent of the total population has some level of immunity to the virus.
The conference is organized by EVYD Knowledge Hub in collaboration with the Ministries of Finance and Economy and Health of the President of Asean, the Brunei Investment Agency and the Temasek Foundation.
In a panel discussion, Brunei’s Minister of Health Mohd Isham Jaafar said that following a second wave of Covid-19 in schools across the country and in the oil and gas industry, the government had increased testing capacity between 10,000 and 12,000 per day.
There has recently been an increase in the number of cases at offshore platforms at the Champion field in Brunei, the country’s largest source of crude oil exports. The increase marks the first major outbreak in Brunei since its first active case was reported in March 2020.
In a separate panel on Post-Pandemic Economic Resilience, speakers discussed the importance of creating buffers and reducing overconcentration by connecting to the wider region and leveraging neighboring economies to build resilience. .
Dr Aladdin Rillo, Senior Economic Advisor at the Institute of Economic Research for ASEAN and East Asia, underscored the importance of building more resilient supply chains that underpin economic growth in the Asean.
“This is no longer an option, but rather an imperative for a more sustainable future,” he said, adding that there was a need to step up the use of technological solutions.
“Digitization will help to improve visibility at every stage of the supply chain, which is important to strengthen the capacity of countries to cope with future shocks, as well as to mitigate the impacts of those shocks.”
Dr Ndiame Diop, country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand at the World Bank, said that while accelerating immunization will help reduce rates of serious illness and death, it won’t is “not so simple” for governments to allow full resumption of activities. due to the wide range of public opinions and comfort levels.
“So while we can see a clear rationale for reopening economies… policymakers probably need to find ways to reassure their populations,” he said.
Noting the greater risk Covid-19 poses to small businesses and less developed economies, he said it has had a huge impact on household incomes and education that could be sustainable.
For example, food insecurity and limited online learning during the pandemic could dampen children’s earnings when they enter the workforce. Countries that use digital tools such as payment systems and national digital identities, added Mr. Diop, are much more efficient and effective in providing support to their populations.
GIC Managing Director Lim Chow Kiat observed that there are still gaps to be filled in the regional e-commerce and logistics space, where investors can find opportunities to deploy capital.
Since around half of the population of Asean is still unbanked, financial and fintech companies also have the opportunity to provide low cost banking services and launch mass market products, a- he declared.
Mr. Desmond Kuek, divisional vice president of UBS Global Wealth Management, said that with Asia’s energy transition, there is “huge potential” for public and private investors to come together to fund innovation .
“The role of the financial world (in this case) is to provide the ecosystem to bring the planet, people and partnership ideas together,” he said.