COVID-19 Pandemic: Health
On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulation (2005) (IHR). The outbreak caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) continued to spread across the continents, including Asia and Europe. On 11 March 2020, WHO announced COVID-19 as a pandemic. This previously unknown virus with no effective treatment options has posed significant challenges on the health sector with its uncertain nature and rapidly evolving information, also related to the capacity in testing and isolating, as well as its asymptomatic cases, etc. According to WHO, there have been 117,332,262 cases confirmed with COVID-19, including 2,605,356 deaths as of 10 March 2021.
COVID-19 Pandemic: Economy
The strategies to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 tend to bring difficulties in social and economic activities. Restricting people’s movement in order to contain the spread of the virus, such as lockdown, curfew and border control, has been reducing economic productivity. The economic damage is evident as the health and human toll grows, and the COVID-19 pandemic also represents the largest financial crisis in decades. According to the World Bank, -5,2 per cent of the negative growth in global GDP is expected in 20203. Various studies also highlighted the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and its strategies, such as social distancing measures, public awareness programmes, testing and quarantine policies and economic support packages.
Taking care of population health while tackling economic difficulties: the fine balance between Health & Economy
The world is facing an unprecedented scale of pandemic in recent human history. The decisions governments are taking will impact people’s action, life and society, which will eventually shape how the world will look in the future with a “new normal”. Promoting economic activities without sufficiently addressing public health concern would result in worsening the pandemic, which could lead to the re-introduction of the restrictive measures disrupting economic activities for a longer period. In the field of public health, it is widely acknowledged that it is best to contain disease outbreaks at the early stage to prevent further spreading. The larger the outbreak becomes, the more difficult to contain – this, in turn, means more social and economic damage to society. On the other hand, strategies without addressing economic concerns risk creating poverty as pandemic often deteriorates many households’ economic situation, especially those relying on work in the informal sector and contract-based jobs without compensation. It is estimated that approximately 88 to 115 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the EU region, there is an economic recovery plan. To help repair the economic and social damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and EU leaders have agreed on a recovery plan that will lead the way out of the crisis and lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The EU’s long-term budget, coupled with NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost the recovery, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget. A total of €1.8 trillion will help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe. It will be a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe. The plan will focus on R&D, climate change, digitalization, health emergency preparedness & resilience, modern agricultural policy, biodiversity and gender equality.
In 2021, ASEF PHN is hosting a multi-country and multi-sectoral roundtable focusing on pandemic and the economy, and how the governments can perform to protect both Public Health and the Economy.
Objectives of the roundtable
The overall aim of this round table is to facilitate a much-needed dialogue between the public health sector and non-health sector when deciding on COVID-19 related policies and strategies in different countries’ setting. As each country possess different health, economic and social infrastructures, no “one size fit all” response will be expected. Nonetheless, the roundtable will seek to find some guides that can be considered by ASEM Partners. How an agreement is made between governments, public health authorities and non-health sectors on practical ways to overcome economic difficulties will be shared by some ASEM Partners.
The specific objectives are:
- To bring together officials representing different responsibilities such as Public Health, Economy as well as other stakeholders to identify the priorities to best address the COVID-19 pandemic
- To identify potential actions for the points identified above, and address the role of the health sector in connecting health and governance in addressing COVID-19 pandemic
- To share the lessons learnt and best practice across Asia and Europe dealing with public health and the economy under the COVID-19 pandemic
External cooperation for this meeting
The planning of this meeting has been developed in cooperation with the following experts.
- Dr Angel KUNCHEV, Chief Health Inspector, Ministry of Health, Bulgaria
- Mr Jukka RAILAVO, Senior Financial Advisor, Ministry of Finance Finland
- Mr Markus SOVALA, Director General, Statistics Finland
- Mr Jouni VARANKA, Ministerial Adviser, Prime Minister’s Office, Finland
- Dr Iris HUNGER, Head of Global Health Protection Programme, Centre for International Health Protection, Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany
- Dr Tomoya SAITO, Director, Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan
- Associate Prof Vernon LEE, Director, Communicable Disease Division, Ministry of Health, Singapore
- Ms Karen TAN, Deputy Chief of Government Communications (Development) and Senior Director (Transformation), Ministry of Communications and Information
- Ms Nobuko ICHIKAWA, Senior Environmental Advisor, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
- Dr Noriko KITAMURA, Medical Consultant, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)