ASEAN Representatives Participate In Week-Long Exercise Aimed At Improving Region’s Pandemic Response

A group of experts from Southeast Asia gathered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Monday for the start of a four-day exercise to help bolster “the capabilities of [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] ASEAN member states, both individually and collectively, to prepare for and respond to a severe pandemic with potentially devastating effects on the region,” Agence France-Presse/The Independent reports (8/17).

The exercise, which asks participants to respond to a simulated pandemic, “is designed to study how an outbreak, and the resulting high absenteeism, would impact several essential services simultaneously, especially energy, transport and health care,” U.N. News Centre reports. The drill “will simulate a communicable disease emergency on the fictional continent of Pandemica, which has five countries with similar economic and infrastructural conditions to South-East Asia.”

According to the U.N., representatives from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as the U.N. and other groups are involved in the exercise. “Participants will spend four days responding to fictional reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the pandemic’s escalation,” the news service explains (8/16). This initiative “is the first of its kind … and has funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development,” VOA News reports (8/16).

During an opening address to participants on Monday, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan spoke of the need for the 10-member state body to be better prepared for the next real pandemic the region faces, Radio Australia News reports (Carmichael, 8/16).

“All of us need to be aware of the risks associated with epidemic and potential pandemics, and the tools and measures we could set in place to promptly mitigate their impacts,” Pitsuwan said, the Associated Press/Jakarta Post reports (8/16).