The health ministers from the 10-member ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea issued a joint statement Tuesday evening after their meeting in Cambodia's northwest provincial city of Siem Reap, furthering the region's efforts to combat the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
A framework action plan, adopted by the ministers, highlighted four priority areas such as guidelines for international travel; ASEAN SARS containment information network; capacity building for outbreak alert and response and public education and information.
The meeting reviewed and prioritized cooperative measures established at four other regional conferences in China, Malaysia,the Philippines and Thailand earlier this year, as well as discussing common strategies for combating SARS.
The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to fully implementing the decisions as contained in the Special ASEAN leaders meeting on SARS held on April 29 in Bangkok and the ASEAN+3 health ministers special meeting on SARS held on April 26 in Kuala Lumpur.
At the same time, the ministers expressed satisfaction with the efforts made so far and pledged to implement the Action Plan.
The ministers also requested the dialogue partners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international and regional organizations to mobilize financial and human resources and technical support in order to implement the Action Plan.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
At the meeting, Huang Jiefu, vice minister of health of China, briefed about China's all-out efforts in the fight against SARS, and ASEAN ministers appreciated China's support and cooperation in their fight against the disease.
SARS has badly affected the tourism industry and economic growth in Cambodia as well as in the region.
More than 780 people have died from the disease worldwide, out of more than 8400 infections.
The WHO's regional director Shigeru Omi said in his keynote speech on Tuesday, "The SARS epidemic appears to be under control.The number of new cases has been dropped very significantly and there is a clear and consistent downward trend in both cases and deaths. However, this is not the time to sit back."
"We should use this breathing space to really build up national disease surveillance and outbreak response systems to better respond to any disease outbreak in the future," he stressed.
(Xinhua News Agency June 11, 2003)