KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Malaysia has been selected to lead a feasibility study on a proposal to establish an ASEAN centre for public health emergencies and emerging diseases.
According to Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, Malaysia is the leader of the study and will be a member of the steering committee with the ASEAN secretariat, while the government of Japan will be the financier of the research.
“The results of the study will be used to make strategic decisions related to the establishment of the centre in the future,” Dr Adham said in his written September 3 parliamentary reply to Senator Abdul Ghani Mohamed Yassin (Bersatu), who asked the former to state the various involvements of Malaysia with other countries to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Adham said that currently, ASEAN is at the initial phase of the three-phase feasibility study — determining the members of the working group required for the study.
In his Dewan Negara written reply, Dr Adham said that Malaysia has take the whole-of-government approach in dealing with the spread of Covid-19, where from the first case of the Covid-19 reported in Malaysia on January 25, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has strengthened international relationships, either bilaterally, regionally, or through multilateral relationships, to curb and control the spread of the coronavirus.
The health minister also mentioned that from April 21, three ministries — the Ministry of Science and Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), MOH, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (KLN) — have agreed to collaborate to make Malaysia one of the first countries to have access to a Covid-19 vaccine once it has passed clinical trials.
“The collaboration of three ministries was formed to seek opportunities to establish strategic cooperation, involving international bodies, agencies, and local companies, to enable Malaysia to obtain facilities for vaccine development and prevention of Covid-19 through foreign relations using scientific diplomacy,” Dr Adham told Senator Abdul Ghani.
“A series of engagements and discussions have been held and will continue under the collaboration of the three ministries, along with local and foreign agencies from Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore, as an effort to realise this desire.”
Dr Adham told CodeBlue yesterday that Malaysia was still in talks with the World Health Organization (WHO) about the global COVAX Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan, even as 172 countries have already joined the plan co-led by WHO.
Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Norway are among 80 upper middle-income and high-income nations that have shown commitment to COVAX that aims to help purchase and fairly distribute the coronavirus vaccine to participating economies. Malaysia is classified as an upper middle-income country.
MOH, as the leader of the ASEAN Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Network for public health emergencies, has also hosted regular video conferences during the Covid-19 pandemic involving the participation of 10 ASEAN countries, plus three partner countries — China, Japan, and South Korea — as well as observer countries, Italy and France, where each country shared their experience and technical input in facing this pandemic.
At a bilateral level, Dr Adham stated that MOH has continued to strengthen existing bilateral cooperation platforms with other countries, among which is the working committee on Covid-19 between Malaysia and Singapore.
“Under this committee, MOH with Singapore’s Ministry of Health has discussed and strengthened the health protocol at the entrance between two countries and exchanged information on the clinical management of Covid-19 patients,” the health minister said.
“MOH is also in the process of discussing with Singapore’s MOH on health screening that will be implemented reciprocally in the proposal to reopen the borders between these two countries under the travel bubble.”
Furthermore, Dr Adham mentioned that Malaysia showed its commitment to participate in the global Solidarity Trial by WHO for selected countries to undergo clinical trials on drugs used to treat Covid-19.
“Malaysia’s involvement in this solidarity trial will give Malaysia the opportunity for faster access to medicines.”
The health minister also said MOH tracks the number of Malaysian citizens infected with Covid-19 abroad, through WHO’s International Health Regulation (IHR) focal points.
“To ensure the effective delivery of information on foreigners confirmed to be infected with Covid-19, MOH together with all focal points IHR 2005 of WHO member countries, MOH has continuously strengthened communication platforms to ensure information on infected foreigners with Covid-19 and are being treated will be notified to the respective member countries immediately,” Dr Adham said.
“Effective communications through these IHR focal points also benefit Malaysia, as MOH can track the number of Malaysians who are infected with Covid-19 overseas.”
He also stated that ongoing sharing sessions between Malaysia and WHO on the latest Covid-19 status has successfully helped the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) and the National Public Health Laboratory (MKAK) strengthen their ability to conduct comprehensive Covid-19 validation and detection tests in the country.
Besides that, Dr Adham also said that MOH has ensured optimal involvement by MOH specialists, MOH staff, Malaysian government officials, and researchers, including the involvement of representatives from medical faculties of universities, as an opportunity to share views, exchange experiences, and technical knowledge related to clinical case management, infection control, preventive measures, clinical research and investigation, and the role of traditional Chinese medicine in the management of Covid-19, during a visit by a team of medical specialists from China to Malaysia from April 18 to May 3.