China, ASEAN deepen cooperation to combat COVID-19

International Cooperation

As trading partners with broad and close ties, China and ASEAN have been working together to tide over the difficulties as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.

XinhuaUpdated: November 16, 2020

Myanmar and China have engaged in significant mutual cooperation in their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Shwe Zin Ko, economic attache of the consulate general of Myanmar in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

She highlighted the deep "pauk-phaw" relationship — a term that refers to siblings from the same mother — in comments delivered before the 23rd China-ASEAN leaders' meeting, which was held Thursday via video link.

Since the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) in 2010, the trade between China and ASEAN countries has grown rapidly, and ASEAN has become China's largest trading partner.

In the first 10 months of the year, the China-ASEAN bilateral trade volume reached 3.79 trillion yuan (about US$572 billion), up 7 percent year on year, accounting for 14.6 percent of China's total foreign trade, according to the General Administration of Customs.

As trading partners with broad and close ties, China and ASEAN have been working together to tide over the difficulties as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.

On March 23, a team consisting of seven medical experts from Guangxi, along with tonnes of medical supplies including ventilators, medical masks and test kits, arrived in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, to help the country fight against the pandemic.

It was the first Chinese medical team sent out to ASEAN countries for COVID-19 prevention and control.

In Cambodia, the team visited the designated hospitals for COVID-19 patients and virus-testing labs and exchanged views with their Cambodian counterparts on the diagnosis and treatment procedures, the selection of antiviral drugs and disinfection of hotels used for concentrated quarantine.

In addition, the experts offered training for Cambodian medics on personal protection, the installation and use of lab equipment, as well as the treatment of COVID-19 patients in severe and critical conditions.

A remote consultation system was also established for Cambodian hospitals. Based on the system, medics with the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University shared COVID-19 treatment experience with Cambodian medics via video conference.

Moreover, this year has been designated as the China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation. To enhance the effect of digital technologies in the fight against the pandemic, medical internet platforms have been built to link China and ASEAN countries.

The first affiliated hospital in Guangxi on Oct. 9 launched a cross-border medical platform to boost medical cooperation between China and ASEAN countries.

The platform has been jointly developed by the affiliated hospital, tech giant Microsoft, Shenzhen-based medical device provider Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co., Ltd. and other companies.

It enables the hospital to provide patients from ASEAN countries with medical consultations prior to hospitalization, access to treatment information while being hospitalized, and continuous follow-up consultations after being discharged from hospitals.

Services in eight languages, including Chinese, English, Thai and Vietnamese, are available on the platform, according to the affiliated hospital.

Azlimi Zakaria, consul general of the Consulate General of Malaysia in Nanning, said that information sharing is an important part of anti-epidemic cooperation, along with medical practice, equipment and expert exchanges.

"The virus knows no boundary. This is the time for us to reach out to help each other," Zakaria said.