Ministers and officials from the 10 nation Association of South East
Asian Nations - ASEAN - as well as China, South Korea and Japan are set
to meet in Thailand to boost regional cooperation in dealing with any
outbreak of the swine influenza A-H1N1 virus. Officials say a key goal
is to improve monitoring measures to avoid a wider impact on the
region's economy, especially tourism and transport.
of health ministers and officials from the 10 member Association of
South East Asian Nations hopes to boost regional cooperation in
combating the threat from the swine flu virus in Asia.
get underway on Thursday, the meeting is scheduled to hear from United
Nations officials, the United States' Secretary of Health and Human
Services Kathleen Sebelius and Director-General of the World Health
Organization (WHO) Dr Margaret Chan by way of video conference.
in a briefing with journalists Wednesday, Thai Health Ministry
officials said a primary aim will be to limit the wider potential
damage on the region's economy, especially in areas of transport and
whole region has many people traveling. So the hot issue is how to
control the disease without any damage to the business sector, the
tourism, and the transportation economy. So the leaders have to use
their own judgment and we really hope we can do that to minimize the
damages," said Dr. Kumnuan Ungchusak, a senior expert in preventive medicine from the Ministry of Public Health.
Kumnuan said a proposal is to set possible
geographical limits concerning any influenza outbreak rather than to
designate a whole country as being infected with flu.
meeting the technical people will try to propose not to use the whole
country but specify - set one criterion - so we know where the outbreak
is. In that case when we provide some information or traveling
precaution it will be specific; if we can do that this will limit the
impact on tourism," he said.
Under this plan travel
advisories would cover cities or regions rather than entire countries
as well as providing for exit screening.
Discussions would also
call for a survey of available medical supplies and stocks within the
region and international organizations and ease of access to medical
supplies at short notice.
Cross border cooperation is also on
the agenda especially in requests for medical supplies, hospital rooms
and surveillance teams, as well as looking to call on the WHO to
provide assistance, officials said.
Worldwide there are
currently about 1,500 confirmed cases of swine flu infection in at
least 21 countries. In Thailand, officials said, there were still no
reported cases but strict surveillance remained in place.
reports said officials from the Philippines were pressing for a more
concerted regional effort to tackle the virus. The Philippines has
placed five people under observation after showing flu like symptoms.
said the region is well prepared to face any potential widespread
influenza outbreak given past experience in cooperation on the Severe
Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and in recent years the
outbreak of bird flu across the region.
The meeting is scheduled
to conclude Friday with an expected joint ministerial statement aimed
at promoting collaboration among the ASEAN members as well as measures
to combat a potential pandemic, with a hoped for political commitment
to implement any measures.