Non-Aligned Movement has laid special emphasis on developing healthcare facilities in the Member States. NAM has expressed concerns at the global threat posed by health epidemics and called upon the Member States of the United Nations to enhance their cooperation at the national, regional and international levels to confront and combat these scourges.

The spread of the COVID-19 virus, commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, has posed a major global health crisis. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 as the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020, among others, to further strengthen Country’s health system and to establish international coordination and cooperation to mitigate the international dissemination of the COVID-19.

The response of the ASEAN collectively as well as that of its Member States individually has earned global commendation. For example, Singapore government has donated 40,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests and two ventilators to the Philippines. These additional test kits will supplement Singapore’s earlier donation to allow more people to have an early diagnosis, while the ventilators will be crucial for the survival of severe COVID-19 cases.

The ASEAN Health Sector Cooperation deployed and operationalized the established and existing health mechanisms for technical exchanges, information sharing, and updates on policy-related measures in responding to COVID-19. This action of the ASEAN Health Sector Cooperation is guided by the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda (APHDA) and its Governance and Implementation Mechanism (GIM). The Guiding Principles for the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda include the use of evidence-based approaches in setting health priorities and agreed upon common goals and targets which must be measurable, with the commitment in implementation by all parties, including strengthening health information system, effective use of scarce health resources, flexibility, transparency, good governance, maximize synergies, partnerships, and participation and avoid duplication with other relevant organizations and stakeholders and strengthen ASEAN’s role and image through active contributions to global health in various platforms and strengthening collaboration with other countries and development partners. The Malaysia-led ASEAN EOC Network continues to lead the overall health sector information sharing and technical exchange efforts. It has hosted video conferences that facilitated agreements on regional cooperation priorities, and technical exchange on clinical management of COVID-19 cases, among others.

On 13th March 2020, ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting for Health Development (SOMHD) held a six-hour special video conference where they shared scaled-up and intensified national prevention, preparedness, detection and response measures to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Participants in the conference discussed capacity needs and gaps in the national response of each ASEAN Member State which could possibly be supported through cooperation at national or regional levels with Development and Dialogue Partners.

These exchanges revealed that some Member States would need technical support in the planning and implementation of containment and mitigation measures; social distancing and ring-fencing; risk communication with the media and public; as well as laboratory, pharmaceutical, equipment and supplies support in ensuring effective management and treatment of cases, particularly severe and critical cases.

The senior health officials also stressed the importance of international cooperation in tackling transboundary issues in COVID-19 threat. They further expressed willingness to engage with other Dialogue and Development Partners to exchange information and experiences, technical guidelines, including sharing critical resources for containment and/or mitigation.

The ASEAN Bio Diaspora Virtual Centre led by the Philippines has prepared the regional Risk Assessment Reports for the International Dissemination of COVID-19 to the ASEAN region. The reports provide highlights and situation overview in ASEAN and globally; information on air travel flows between the ASEAN Member States and countries with cases and outbreaks; travel restrictions; and the evolution of the ongoing outbreak. A page at the ASEAN Website has been dedicated to capture the prevention, detection and response efforts of the ASEAN Health Sector to COVID-19.