SINGAPORE, May 14 (Xinhua) — As the world moves forward from COVID-19, societies should look to create a new normal where health and the economy go hand in hand, said a World Health Organization (WHO)’s regional director in a virtual media briefing Thursday.
The joint media briefing, hosted by the World Economic Forum in partnership with the WHO, explored the impact of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on Asia.
Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the world, and did so at “lightning speed.”
It also presents an unprecedented opportunity to fix the flaws and fractures in the health systems and in society, and to find new ways of thinking, living and working.
“In moving forward, we should create a new normal, in which we don’t have to choose between health and livelihoods,” he said.
While the government is central in steering countries into the future, the private sector is critical as well, said Kasai.
It needs flexible and innovative ways to reopen and conduct businesses while taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus at the workplace, and to find new ways to deliver goods and services, he said.
Agreeing, fellow panellist and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat executive director Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, who is based in Singapore, said moving forward, governments need more support for the healthcare system and social protection.
It is even more important that countries should not “retreat into protectionist measures”, but collectively work together to support each other so they can emerge stronger from the crisis, she added.
This can take the form of open markets, stable trade and investment environment so that trade and investment continues to flow, especially to facilitate the flow of medical goods and keep essentials affordable, she said.
Kasai warned that the pandemic is far from over and countries should prepare themselves for a situation of large-scale community transmission by engaging communities and strengthening healthcare capacities, he said.
What has worked well in the region has been through pro-active detecting and isolating cases, tracing and quarantining their contacts and stringent safe distancing measures to manage COVID-19, he said.
Going ahead, societies should continue to be vigilant and not rush to lift public health movement restrictions, but to ease measures in phases (based on scientific evidence and data in the local context) to prevent new wave of infections.
“As long as the virus is circulating in this interconnected world, and until we have a safe and effective vaccine available, everyone remains at risk,” he said.
The other two speakers of media briefing were Tan Hooi Ling, co-founder of Grab, the Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing giant; and Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of he Straits Times and chairman of Asia News Network. Enditem