The commitment was conveyed at an APEC meeting themed, "Building a Resilient Asia-Pacific in a COVID-19 World," according to a written statement issued by the APEC Health Working Group and APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum received here on Monday.
At the meeting, APEC health ministers, academics, industry leaders, and representatives from governmental and international organizations recognized the crucial role of investments in health systems and economic recovery packages to support the pandemic response and build resilient economies moving forward.
"The effect of this pandemic has highlighted long-standing weaknesses in existing health systems and vulnerabilities in the global health response as the world struggles to reduce the human and economic toll of this pandemic," Malaysia Health Minister Adham Baba affirmed.
Minister Baba highlighted the significance of boosting the resilience of health systems and supply chains to cope with the surge in demand during this pandemic.
"The longstanding under-funding and investment in health has impacted the capabilities of economies to cope during a global health crisis," the minister added.
The APEC region accounts for over 34 percent of COVID-19 infections and over 36 percent of the total fatalities worldwide. The prolonged duration of the pandemic is also causing devastating impacts on the global economy.
The APEC region’s economy is forecast to contract 3.7 percent in 2020, with total output loss estimated at US$2.9 trillion.
Focusing on recovery and better health emergency preparedness, members and experts exchanged views on the importance of sustainable vaccination systems, especially the need to strengthen systems to support equitable access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once developed.
Members and experts sought coordinated response to ensure open, secure, stable, and efficient global supply chains that will enhance access and availability of safe and effective medicines, including future COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Members also discussed digital innovation and the vital role it plays to assist governments in pandemic management. Several economies have developed their own digital health solutions, including mobile applications to facilitate contact tracing and exposure notifications, encourage the use of telemedicine and clinical management, as well as manage quarantine and self-isolation.
"The pandemic has shown us the importance of leveraging digital health technologies and why we need to further encourage innovation and deepen collaboration in this area," Baba stated.
Hosted by Malaysia, the host of APEC 2020, the virtual meeting issued a joint statement reiterating members’ commitment to continue regional cooperation to boost the effectiveness of pandemic response and planning.
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