WHO welcomes ASEAN unity against SARS
Geneva, 29 April 2003 - The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the unprecedented efforts being made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three, to coordinate and standardize their campaigns against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The WHO’s Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, in a recent interview stressed the importance of sustained international cooperation in the battle against SARS. “It is now we have a chance to contain it [SARS], and we must use public health tools that we have at our disposal," she said.
On Tuesday, April 29, the heads of government of ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, The Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam – plus The Peoples Republic of China, including Hong Kong SAR, met in Bangkok, Thailand, and endorsed a set of procedures to jointly combat SARS. The procedures were drawn out by the respective countries’ Health Ministers, who had met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, three days earlier on April 26.
“Meetings of this level and magnitude, to form a common strategy against a specific disease, show how serious countries are to become free of SARS,” said Dr David Heymann, the Executive Director of the WHO’s Communicable Diseases Cluster.
Dr Heymann, at the meeting in Bangkok, gave an address in which he reminded the heads of states that there are two simple strategies that can contain and eventually stop SARS – detecting all cases and protecting those at risk of infection from these cases. He said that countries need to detect and treat SARS cases early while taking effective measures to protect the rest of the population. This is reflected in the procedures endorsed at the Bangkok meeting, where countries agreed to standardize screening of all travellers, isolate and treat identified SARS cases, and, importantly, share accurate and timely information.