Disease control vital as China-Asean cooperation grows

03-Sep-2016 Intellasia | Global Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Clouds of uncertainty over infectious diseases have started to loom following reports that cases of the highly communicable Zika virus have jumped in Singapore, with 21 Chinese nationals in the country having been infected. Many netisens voiced their concerns, with some considering canceling plans to travel to Singapore. Yet more are worried that the Zika virus will emerge in China.

In these days of so much international exchange in goods and people, anxiety over health when travelling overseas is easy to understand. Some diseases are endemic in both China and Southeast Asia, such as malaria and dengue fever, spread by mosquitoes. But cross-infection rates in other diseases have surged in China’s border areas. Southwest China’s Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which share borders with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, are the regions with the most confirmed cases of HIV in the country.

Granted, the increasingly frequent exchange of commodities, capital and personnel between China and Asean countries over the years has brought substantial benefits to the two sides, but also increased the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

With the development of the China-Asean free trade area and the “Belt and Road” initiative, the flows of people and goods between China and Southeast Asia today are much higher compared with the old days, and the flows of infectious diseases, like cholera and influenza, could increase more easily both ways along with the increased connectivity.

There have been some joint efforts, including forums and seminars, between China and Asean over cross-border cooperation against infectious diseases. But they mostly focus on individual cases. Against such a backdrop, discussions about the establishment of an effective, comprehensive mechanism which is able to supervise and control the spread of viruses across the region is urgently needed.

The 19th China-Asean Leaders’ Meeting, which is also the commemorative summit marking the 25th anniversary of China-Asean dialogue relations in Vientiane, Laos next week, can be viewed as an opportunity to raise the topic. It’s time for Beijing and Asean members to earnestly formulate a mechanism to timely share information with each other over emergences of contagions and closely follow the cases of newly emerged viruses, such as mutations of HIV. And then step by step complete the system with more collaboration to prevent, control and cure the diseases.

While establishing a community of common destiny, a healthier and more secure environment is more in demand than ever. Efforts will not only benefit the health of all in the region, but can also build goodwill for more future cooperation.



Category: Health

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