Joint fight against COVID-19 bolsters Lancang-Mekong cooperation

International Exchanges

China pledged to give priority to providing COVID-19 vaccines to Mekong countries once a vaccine is developed and deployed in China. China will also continue to provide anti-epidemic materials and technical support to Mekong countries.

XinhuaUpdated: August 25, 2020

It has been more than four months since doctor Geng Jiawei came back from Laos, but she still gets messages from her peers in the Southeast Asian country inquiring about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

"I often get questions about the use of drugs and how to improve the prevention and control of COVID-19," said Geng, a 51-year-old infectious disease doctor who was among a group of 12 Chinese medical experts sent to Laos to help deal with the country's epidemic outbreak in late March.

During their two-week stay in Laos, the Chinese experts visited hospitals across the country, offered advice on enhancing epidemic prevention and control and held training sessions for local medical staff.

"As soon as we disembarked from the plane, a wave of heat hit us, even standing still the sweat poured from us like rain," Geng recalled.

Despite the oppressive heat, the Chinese experts managed to visit the Lao Ministry of Health and three hospitals in the Lao capital on the first day, and interacted with officials and medics to learn about the local epidemic situation. They also worked through the night to draft a COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment plan according to the local conditions.

"We were really racing against time to fight the coronavirus during our stay in Laos. We worked an average of 14 hours every day," Geng said.

"But our efforts were very worthwhile," she added. "Lao people donated many anti-epidemic supplies to China when we were suffering from COVID-19. When confirmed cases were reported in Laos, it was time for us to repay the kindness of our neighbors."

The Chinese expert team is a showcase of the public health cooperation between the six countries in the Lancang-Mekong region -- China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The six countries launched a Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism in March 2016.

The countries' joint efforts have effectively contained the epidemic in the region, according to Liu Zhi, director of the Center for LMC Studies under Yunnan University.

"The six countries' joint fight against COVID-19 has yielded extraordinary results, given the weak public health infrastructure in the region," Liu said.

Nan Mya Mya Win, a Burmese language teacher working in southwest China's Yunnan Province, also witnessed the close cooperation among Lancang-Mekong countries in combating the virus.

In January, Nan Mya Mya Win helped the local government in Ruili, a city in Yunnan on the China-Myanmar border, translate government publications and news into Burmese to inform many workers from Myanmar in the city about the latest epidemic situation.

She also appeared in five short videos about epidemic prevention, including videos informing the public how to properly wash their hands and wear masks. The videos have been played on the screens at Ruili's border control office and even been posted on social media platforms in Myanmar.

"Many people from Myanmar commented on social media that the videos have helped them fend off the virus," Nan Mya Mya Win said. "China and Myanmar have been supporting each other in the anti-epidemic fight. In particular, China has sent medical experts and supplies to Myanmar, helping my country contain the epidemic."

On Monday's third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders' Meeting, China pledged to give priority to providing COVID-19 vaccines to Mekong countries once a vaccine is developed and deployed in China. China will also continue to provide anti-epidemic materials and technical support to Mekong countries.

"As the coronavirus epidemic is still raging across the planet, it is necessary to leverage the LMC mechanism and enhance sub-regional public health cooperation for the benefit of all Lancang-Mekong countries," Liu Zhi said.