Health & Life Sciences Update: May 1, 2020

Health & Life Sciences | May 1, 2020
Authors: Hai Pham, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, J-Ren Ong, Minh Vu
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

Upcoming Planned Activities - more details will be shared when available

  • Joint Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Program in Indonesia
  • Bilateral E-Consultative Meetings with Ministries of Health and other key government agencies in priority ASEAN countries
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

COVID-19 Developments in ASEAN

Following the Special ASEAN Summit and Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit held in early April, on April 22, ASEAN Foreign Ministers and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a virtual Special U.S.-ASEAN Summit on COVID-19. In the joint statement, ASEAN welcomed the support from USAID and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to build capacity for ASEAN’s health workers and encouraged the U.S. to support the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund to address the pandemic and future public health emergencies, and the planned establishment of a Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies proposed earlier in the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit. In addition, ASEAN also welcomed the U.S. assistance to the Member States to contain COVID-19, including the provision of over US$35.3 million and the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative. Following this Special Summit, on April 27, the European Union (EU) announced that it is mobilizing 350 million euros (US$380 million) to support ASEAN in the COVID-19 fight and an additional 48.5 million euros (US$52.6 million) to fund 18 new research and innovation projects on coronavirus for cooperation with ASEAN scientific organization. On April 29, the ASEAN Health Ministers and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar met over a video conference to discuss COVID-19 cooperation, during which the socio-economic recovery phase was highlighted with emphasis placed on the role of the private sector. 

These international support efforts are likely to be valuable as each member state begins to weigh whether to ease or extend regulations restricting the movement of people, goods and services. In addition, such efforts can help as nations begin to detect a surge of infections among migrant workers. Singapore and Thailand have seen a spike in rates of infection among its migrant worker population, who come from other parts of the region to work on construction sites, in low-wage industries and as domestic labor. On April 21, Singapore recorded a massive outbreak in dormitories for foreign workers, registered 1,111 new cases in one day while Thailand on April 25 reported 42 cases among undocumented foreign workers mainly from neighboring Myanmar. Following these outbreaks, former Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on April 25 called for the Thailand Government to increase migrant screening measures and cooperate with the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization to come up with overall measures for migrant workers in Thailand and abroad. Former Deputy Secretary-General for the ASEAN Secretariat Suthad Setboonsarng echoed the call, urging ASEAN to provide financial assistance or food support to foreign workers once COVID-19 is under control.

The U.S. Launches U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures Initiative

The ongoing pandemic has catalyzed further U.S. and ASEAN cooperation in the field of public health. On April 22, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo participated in a Special U.S.-ASEAN Summit with the ten ASEAN Foreign Ministers and launched the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative, which captures the United States’ existing and ongoing work with ASEAN on public health and lays the groundwork for long-term partnership, targeted assistance, and a renewed focus on the health and well-being of both U.S. and ASEAN citizens. The launch of the initiative also saw an allocation of US$35.3 million in emergency funding for ASEAN Member States to combat COVID-19. The initiative aims to advance the shared health goals of the United States and ASEAN in a wide variety of fields, including HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease control, expanding safe water access, and improving nutrition and maternal and child health. Additionally, joint efforts on health research, strengthening health capacity across the ASEAN region, developing the next generation of human capital, and exploring smart city health solutions through the U.S-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership are also expected.

The U.S. support for ASEAN is one of the latest international efforts to support the region, following other multilateral financial institutions’ package to strengthen the countries’ response. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on April 13 tripled the size of its initial US$6.5 billion package, announced on March 18, to US$20 billion. On April 23, the ADB approved a US$1.5 billion loan to Indonesia. The World Bank on April 20 approved a US$50 million emergency loan for Myanmar’s public health capacity, following a US$500 million loan to support the Philippine on April 10 and a US$18 million loan for Laos on April 7.

Thailand Reallocated Budget 2020 to COVID-19 Response Fund

Following a third economic stimulus package worth 1.9 trillion baht (US$ 58 billion) approved by the Government of Thailand on April 6 to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government on April 21 approved an additional 98.7 billion baht (US$3 billion) in relief measures. This amount would add 75 billion baht (US$2.3 billion) to the existing 600 billion baht (US$18.5 billion) fund that provided monthly cash handouts to an estimated 9 million self-employed and laid-off people while the remaining 23.7 billion baht (US$731 million) would cut or waive electricity bills for 22 million households. On the same day, the Government approved a proposal to reallocate 10 percent of the fiscal 2020 budgets of each ministry to a central fund to fight the pandemic and rehabilitate the economy. The amount reallocated would be worth a total of 100.4 billion baht (US$3.1 billion) and would be managed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha empowered by the emergency decree. This proposal was part of the third economic stimulus package approved on April 6.

After the Cabinet approved the redistribution plan, on April 23, a health advocacy group, the People’s Health Systems Movement, sent an open letter to the Prime Minister objecting the plan which would divert 2.4 billion baht (US$74 million) from the universal health coverage scheme’s budget and 938.4 million baht (US$28.9 million) from the Ministry of Public Health’s budget to fund the employment upgrade plan. On April 25, Ministry of Public Health Permanent Secretary Sukhum Karnchanapimai and Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat assured that the universal health coverage scheme’s budget was not cut and the 48 million people covered by the scheme would not be affected. Permanent Secretary Sukhum added that the Government had given three billion baht (US$92.5 million) to the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which oversees the universal health coverage scheme. Earlier on March 2, the Ministry of Public Health added COVID-19 under the universal health coverage scheme and proposed a 3.5 billion baht (US$107.9 million) budget to finance the inclusion of COVID-19 in the scheme.

Thailand Withdrew Proposal to Join CPTPP Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 28, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit withdrew a proposal to the cabinet to consider Thailand joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The Minister cited the concerns about the trade pact’s impact on health security from civil groups, business interests, and the Ministry of Public Health as the reason to withdraw the proposal. The civil society groups opposed to the trade pact, including the Pharmacy Council of Thailand, argued that joining the CPTPP would restrict the rights to access medicine and state procurement activities, threatening public health especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 24, former Public Health Minister Dr Mongkol Na Songkhla warned in a Facebook Live address that Thailand would lose the right to compulsory licensing for patented medicines, especially for HIV and cancer, if Thailand joined the CPTPP.

The proposal is prepared by the Department of Trade Negotiation, Thai Ministry of Commerce, based on a study of the pros and cons of joining the trade pact done by Bolliger & Company, a strategic consultancy. According to this study, joining the CPTPP will boost Thailand’s annual GDP by 0.12% or by 13.3 billion baht (US$409 million) with investment up 5.14%, and exports up 3.47%. On the other hand, not participating will result in 26.6 billion baht (US$818 million) loss of revenue and a contraction of GDP by 0.25% per annum, with investment down 0.49% and exports down 0.19%. The CPTPP entered into force in December 2018 when seven, including Vietnam and Singapore, out of eleven signatories ratified the agreement. Malaysia and Brunei are the other two Southeast Asian countries of the trade pact but have not yet ratified. Trade Negotiations Department chief Auramon Supthaweethum said ahead of the withdrawal that Thailand will lose an opportunity to compete and will be overtaken by neighboring countries if Thailand does not join the pact. Proponents of the trade have argued that free trade agreement could help the economy revitalize after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It should also be noted that following the April 14 Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) highlighted a number of key areas that require immediate attention including urging all ASEAN member states to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement in 2020.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

2020 Health & Life Sciences Committee Workplan

On April 30, the Council hosted the 5th Health& Life Sciences Committee Call on COVID-19 to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented during the pandemic and the Committee Workplan. Due to the recent shift of focus towards COVID-19 response and economic recovery, the Council has updated its HLS workplan to reflect the new workstreams and changes in our activities. We plan to convene the next HLS Committee call in June to discuss the workplan. Please find the Workplan here and contact Thao Nguyen (tnguyen@usasean.org) or Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org) if you have any questions or comments.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
ASEAN
ASEAN leaders urged to reopen economy gradually
ASEAN urges US to support creation of COVID-19 response fund
US, Asean are partnering to defeat Covid-19, build resilience, support economic recovery — Michael Pompeo
Southeast Asia could be the next coronavirus hot spot — these charts show why

Brunei
China supports Brunei’s fight against virus with donations
Brunei sees more relapse Covid-19 cases
Foreign travellers to bear Covid-19 testing costs in Brunei

Cambodia
Medical supplies to Cambodian Army from Vietnamese Army
16 tons of medical supplies given to Defense Ministry
Draft Law on Nation Management in State of Emergency Strengthens Cambodia’s Rule of Law and Serves Public Interests: Justice Spokesperson
US$4.5 Million of National Budget Spent on Covid-19 Prevention
CDC director optimistic of Cambodia’s healths services
Cash aid improves maternal and child healthcare in Kingdom

Indonesia
Jakarta Extends Restrictions Until May 22
Indonesia Imports $50m Worth of Medical Supplies as Coronavirus Cases Show No Sign of Slowing
Bio Farma to Produce Locally-Made PCR Test Kits for Covid-19
Indonesia bans annual holiday exodus to combat virus spread
Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to Start Making Affordable Ventilator

Laos
Lao health system continues to offer immunization services despite COVID-19 pandemic
Lao Front, Phongsavanh Foundation assist Savannakhet Provincial Hospital to fight Covid-19
National leadership and harmonised joint efforts for psychosocial support
Local authorities urged to enforce PM’s Order on lockdown
Authorities urge public not to misuse COVID-19 hotlines

Malaysia
Sabah records zero local human malaria infection since 2018
Malaysia working out with South Korea on speeding up delivery of rapid test kits — Health DG
Covid-19: M'sia likely to stick with targeted testing, says Health DG
Logistics, high demand delaying rapid test kit from Korea
Assistive diagnostic AI tool to tackle COVID-19 in Malaysia
Remdesivir has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in Malaysia

Myanmar
Virus Adds to Challenges for Myanmar’s Insurance Sector
Mandalay prepares new lab for COVID-19 testing
Curfew order imposed in seven townships of Kayah State
World Bank to lend $50 mln in Fast-Track Financing for Fighting COVID-19 in Myanmar
Yangon imposes 10pm-4am curfew

Philippines
DOH on alert for return of dengue during COVID-19 pandemic
Donors to six priority projects get tax breaks
DOST in search of designers of respirators, ventilators to be used in fight vs COVID-19
Off-label drugs may now be used in PH coronavirus clinical trials – DOH
DOH-10 implements mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases
Philippines President Extends Manila's Coronavirus Lockdown to May 15
Poll: 80% of Filipinos ‘satisfied’ with gov’t response to health crisis
GSIS to give additional P500k life insurance to COVID-19 gov't frontliners
Philippines eases ban on overseas travel of health workers
FDA Memorandum No. 2020-011 || Performance Testing of Antibody Test kits with Issued Special Certification

Singapore
Doctor Anywhere rolls out teleconsultation for suspected COVID-19 cases
Singapore designs AI platform to combat infectious diseases
Critical self-reliant healthcare life-supporting supply chain to emerge post COVID19
Singapore explores immunotherapy for COVID-19 treatment
Non-invasive cardio-respiratory sensor to predict clinical respiratory deterioration
COVID-19: Network analysis tool developed by DSTA speeds up contact tracing, helped link Mustafa Centre and dorms
Singapore's HC Surgical buys control stake in endoscopy business for $536,060
Entrepreneurship flourishes amid pandemic in Singapore
Singapore-listed ISEC Healthcare's profit fell 37% to $974,680m in Q1
Singapore extends partial lockdown until June 1 as infections surge
Singapore creates world’s first IOT-enabled Tele-Ventilator
NEA calls for urgent community action as yearly dengue figures set to exceed 2019's 16,000 cases
NTU builds disinfection robot to tackle COVID-19 outbreak

Thailand
Emergency decree extended
Pharmacy Council urges caution over Thailand joining the CPTPP
Govt denies 'gold card' budget cut
Government defends universal healthcare budget cut
Thailand names 5 more ASEAN countries as 'high risk', 4 are border nations
HealthMin to Spend 45 Bil. Baht on COVID-19 Vaccine Research
5G paves telemedicine path

Vietnam
HCM City launches pharmaceutical price stabilisation programme
Truscreen : expands to Vietnam with Ministry of Health Approval
Remote health check-up platform, COVID-19 prevention app launched
Ministry of Public Security to investigate Hà Nội’s medical equipment purchase
PM allows exports of medical face masks
Disinfection robot put into trial operation amid COVID-19 fight
Việt Nam to stop exporting COVID-19 treatment medicines from April 16
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
ASEAN

ASEAN leaders urged to reopen economy gradually Borneo Bulletin Online 27th Apr 2020
ASEAN leaders have been urged to take urgent measures to ensure uninterrupted supply chain for essential food, intensify ASEAN-wide trade facilitation and plans for the gradual reopening of the economy to restore market confidence. ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) in its press statement said, “We commend our ASEAN leaders, under the Chairmanship of Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, for staging a special summit through video conferencing on April 14 to put together the much-anticipated ASEAN Collective Response to the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019. In these most trying times, when the effectiveness of multi-lateralism is put to a serious test, we hope that the call to make ASEAN cohesive and responsive will be truly fulfilled in this de-fining moment.”

ASEAN urges US to support creation of COVID-19 response fund CNN Philippines 26th Apr 2020
Southeast Asian foreign ministers urged the United States to support the creation of a regional fund to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Special ASEAN-United States Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19 on Thursday, foreign ministers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), among them, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. and United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, discussed steps to strengthen collaboration on the region's COVID-19 response.

US, Asean are partnering to defeat Covid-19, build resilience, support economic recovery — Michael Pompeo Malay Mail 23rd Apr 2020
On April 22, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo participated in a Special U.S.-ASEAN Summit with the ten ASEAN Foreign Ministers and launched the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative, which captures the United States’ existing and ongoing work with ASEAN on public health and lays the groundwork for long-term partnership, targeted assistance, and a renewed focus on the health and well-being of both U.S. and ASEAN citizens. The launch of the initiative also saw an allocation of US$35.3 million in emergency funding for ASEAN Member States to combat COVID-19. The initiative aims to advance the shared health goals of the United States and ASEAN in a wide variety of fields, including HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease control, expanding safe water access, and improving nutrition and maternal and child health.

Southeast Asia could be the next coronavirus hot spot — these charts show why CNBC 20th Apr 2020
Southeast Asia as a whole has reported more than 28,000 cases as of Sunday, according to data by Johns Hopkins University. Collectively, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore account for 87.9% of total cases reported in Southeast Asia, the data showed. While the region's tally is still far off the hundreds of thousands seen in the U.S. and some European nations, several studies suggest that tens of thousands more infections could be undetected due to the low testing rate in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Capacity to test for the coronavirus vary widely across Southeast Asia. Singapore is among the top globally with 16,203 tests per million people, while Myanmar is close to the bottom with just 85 tests per million people in the population, according to data compiled by statistics site Worldometer. But experts have mostly singled out Indonesia and the Philippines as countries that they're concerned about because of their large population.

Brunei

China supports Brunei’s fight against virus with donations Borneo Bulletin Online 24th Apr 2020
To show support and strengthen ties between China and Brunei, the Government of the People’s Republic of China donated 100,000 N95 respirators and 1,000 disposable isolation gowns while the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brunei Darussalam donated BND60,000 to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in curbing the outbreak of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam. Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam Yu Hong presented the donation to Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a ceremony at the Al-‘Afiah Hall of the MoH. His Majesty sent messages to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, while Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote encouraging words on a message board, and people came to the embassy to express support to China. It was also shared that the government had previously donated half a million US dollars to the Hubei Charity Federation.

Brunei sees more relapse Covid-19 cases The Star Online 19th Apr 2020
Brunei reported one new case of the Covid-19 on April 19, breaking the seven-day record of zero cases reported and bringing the total positive cases to 137. One more patient has recovered and the total number of recovered cases rises to 113. Another five relapse patients were re-admitted to the National Isolation Centre on April 18, which brings the total relapse cases to 16. At present, there are still 23 active cases being treated at the National Isolation Centre, where two patients are in critical condition and both require Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and respiratory assistance. The rest are in a stable condition. The ministry added that so far 85 individuals are still undergoing quarantine and 2,407 people have completed the quarantine period.

Foreign travellers to bear Covid-19 testing costs in Brunei The Star Online 17th Apr 2020
Brunei has announced that starting from April 16, all foreign visitors arriving in Brunei must bear the cost of Covid-19 testings, which is at 1,000 Brunei dollars (US$700) per person. According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, the Brunei government will no longer bear the cost of Covid-19 testing for incoming foreign passengers and the costs of the 14-day isolation at designated government facilities will also be borne by foreigners entering Brunei, as announced earlier this month. The minister also said mass gatherings will not be allowed during the upcoming month of Ramadan which starts next week although the Covid-19 outbreak is under control in the sultanate. Brunei reported no new cases of Covid-19 on April 16, marking the sixth day in a row without new cases since last Friday, when the first round of zero new cases reporting for five consecutive days was broken by one new positive patient. The country's tally of cases stands at 136 since the first case was detected in the sultanate on March 9. At the same time, no more patients have recovered on Thursday and the total number of recovered cases remains at 108.

Cambodia

Medical supplies to Cambodian Army from Vietnamese Army Khmer Times 25th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Defence and its units have offered medical supplies to the armies of Cambodia, China, Laos, Cuba, Germany and Hungary in support of their fight against COVID-19. Worth nearly 19 billion VND ($826,000), the supplies include gloves, face masks, protective suits, thermometers, and hand sanitiser, among others.

16 tons of medical supplies given to Defense Ministry Khmer Times 25th Apr 2020
The National Defense Ministry of Cambodia on Saturday received 16 tons of medical supplies from China’s Ministry of National Defense. The donation is aimed to help the Kingdom curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. The anti-epidemic material arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport this morning for the handover ceremony to Cambodia.

Draft Law on Nation Management in State of Emergency Strengthens Cambodia’s Rule of Law and Serves Public Interests: Justice Spokesperson FRESH NEWS 22nd Apr 2020
Justice Ministry Spokesperson Chin Malin stated Wednesday that the Draft Law on the Management of the Nation in State of Emergency (LMNSE) strengthens Cambodia’s rule of law and serves public and common interests. Speaking at a press conference at the Council of Ministers, the spokesperson mentioned that the law is prerequisite to protect the public interests and people's lives; and to protect national security and public order. "Based on the principle of international human rights, the restrictions imposed by the government during state of emergency do not violate human rights. It indeed protects the national interests and rescues the lives of people,” said Chin Malin.

US$4.5 Million of National Budget Spent on Covid-19 Prevention https://www.akp.gov.kh 22nd Apr 2020
Ministry of Health has spent approximately US$4.5 million on prevention of Covid-19 pandemic by far. The information was shared by H.E. Ms. Yuok Sambath, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Health in a recent press conference here in Phnom Penh, adding that the expenditure focused on purchases of medical supplies and facilities for hospitals in the 25 capital and provinces of Cambodia. H.E. Ms. Yuok Sambath continued that the amount – against the total budget of US$6 million requested by the Ministry of Health – derives from the national budget.

CDC director optimistic of Cambodia’s healths services Khmer Times 21st Apr 2020
Dr. Ly Sovann, Director of the Communicable Disease Control Department (CDC) at the Ministry of Health, has expressed his conviction that more and more Cambodian people will turn to local health services after the end of the COVID-19 crisis. “Our experience as well as our code of medical ethics are now as high as those of other countries. The treatment of COVID-patients is an example,” he told AKP.

Cash aid improves maternal and child healthcare in Kingdom Khmer Times 16th Apr 2020
An inter-ministerial statement was issued last week highlighting the achievements and further initiatives of the government’s cash subsidy programme for pregnant women, which seeks to promote maternal and child welfare and improve the wellbeing of children from impoverished families. In the statement issued last week, the Ministries of Interior; Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation; and Planning joined forces to further the effective implementation of the initiative.

Indonesia

Jakarta Extends Restrictions Until May 22 Jakarta Globe 23rd Apr 2020
The large-scale social restriction in the Indonesian capital has been extended by another four weeks until May 22 to contain the spread of coronavirus, Governor Anies Baswedan announced on Wednesday. Jakarta has become the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in Indonesia, accounting for nearly a half of confirmed cases nationwide, which stood at 7,418 as of Wednesday. The current restriction expires on Thursday, but the governor deemed that the health crisis is far from over and must be extended. He also vowed to take firmer measures to keep people at home and ban public gatherings.

Indonesia Imports $50m Worth of Medical Supplies as Coronavirus Cases Show No Sign of Slowing Jakarta Globe 22nd Apr 2020
Indonesia has spent Rp 777.59 billion, or $50 million, on imported medical supplies since the coronavirus outbreak began in earnest in the country early last month and more imports are now being planned as the number of cases continues to grow. The outbreak-related imports are dominated by face masks, which have totaled 17.1 million units, the director-general of Customs and Excise, Heru Pambudi, said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Bio Farma to Produce Locally-Made PCR Test Kits for Covid-19 Jakarta Globe 21st Apr 2020
State-controlled pharmaceutical holding company Bio Farma is set to produce a real-time polymerase chain reaction testing kit for detecting Sars-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease, based on a prototype developed by Indonesian startup company Nusantics. Honesti Basyir, Bio Farma's president director, said the company would receive the prototype soon and use it for mass production using the company's production facility in Bandung.

Indonesia bans annual holiday exodus to combat virus spread Bangkok Post 21st Apr 2020
Indonesia banned an annual ritual of citizens traveling in large numbers to their hometowns and villages ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. President Joko Widodo, who announced the ban at a cabinet meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday, said the prohibition was based on an assessment that about 24% of people who usually undertake the holiday travel were planning trips irrespective of the virus outbreak. The government has begun distribution of food kits and rolled out other social assistance programs this week to help the jobless and poor in cities, he said.

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to Start Making Affordable Ventilator Jakarta Globe 21st Apr 2020
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has been developing an "affordable" ventilator to treat Covid-19 patients and is now looking to get a certification for the new device. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Arifin Tasrif said he had instructed the ministry's research and development division to develop the ventilator to assist the government in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Laos

Lao health system continues to offer immunization services despite COVID-19 pandemic Lao News Agency 25th Apr 2020
Despite the arrival of COVID-19 in the Lao PDR last month, the health system here is continuing to provide essential health services – and in particular immunization. This message was endorsed by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to mark the start of World Immunization Week (WIW). Dr Panome Sayamoungkhoun, Director of the Ministry of Health’s National Immunization Programme stated “Every infant and every child in the Lao PDR has the right to a healthy start to life that vaccines bring. Even though COVID-19 has arrived in our country, diseases such as measles, pertussis, diptheria and many other vaccine preventable diseases have not gone away. These disease can still damage or even kill our children unless we vaccinate them.”

Lao Front, Phongsavanh Foundation assist Savannakhet Provincial Hospital to fight Covid-19 Vientiane Times 25th Apr 2020
Lao Front for National Development (LFND) and the Phongsavanh Foundation have donated medical supplies and consumer products worth about 51.6 million kip to Savannakhet Provincial Hospital to help in the fight against Covid-19. The goods were handed over by the LFND’s representative, Mr Sinxay Vonglakhone, who is also the organisation's Vice Director in Savannakhet, and the Phongsavanh Foundation Administration Department's Director, Mr Fongsamouth Saychandy, and their delegations to a representative of the Savannakhet Provincial Hospital, Dr Phouvilay Keomongkhoun, during a ceremony held on Wednesday.

National leadership and harmonised joint efforts for psychosocial support Vientiane Times 24th Apr 2020
Members of the Lao Women’s Union (LWU), Vientiane Youth Centers (VYC) and Lao Youth Union (LYU) recently met in Vientiane to participate in an online training programme on psychosocial support during the Covid-19 pandemic. They discuss the UNFPA elements for psychosocial support and the best collaborative ways to complete and coordinate each other’s work. The participants also exchanged their related experiences and ways to cope with the emotional and behavioural reactions to the epidemic.

Local authorities urged to enforce PM’s Order on lockdown Vientiane Times 21st Apr 2020
Local authorities must ensure that Prime Minister’s Order No. 6, aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 by putting a lockdown in place, is enforced, health officials say. Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control under the Ministry of Health, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, stressed this point during the latest daily media briefing on Covid-19, saying everyone should cooperate with the ruling and comply with the Order to prevent the spread of the virus. His message comes after the government extended the lockdown for 14 days until May 3, including the closure of all international and local border crossings to individuals.

Authorities urge public not to misuse COVID-19 hotlines Vientiane Times 21st Apr 2020
Laos’ efforts against the coronavirus are being hampered by too many people tying up national information hotlines to pass on fake news to health authorities, according to a leading official. This was the message from Deputy Head of the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Muongpak at a press conference last week. As of Friday, over 4,000 calls had been made to the direct 166 or 165 hotlines, but only 632 callers asked questions related to COVID-19.

Malaysia

Sabah records zero local human malaria infection since 2018 www.thesundaily.my 26th Apr 2020
Sabah has not recorded any case of local human malaria infection since 2018, said Sabah Health director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi. With that zero case, she said the Sabah Health Department is confident that with the cooperation of various agencies and all levels of the society, it would also be able to curb the spread of the Covid-19 infection.

Malaysia working out with South Korea on speeding up delivery of rapid test kits — Health DG The Edge Markets 22nd Apr 2020
A government-to-government (G2G) arrangement is now being worked out between Malaysia and South Korea to speed up the delivery of antigen rapid test kits to Malaysia, according to Ministry of Health (MoH) director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. For the time being, the antigen rapid test kits are expected to arrive in Malaysia at the earliest by April 25, or latest by the next week. "The procurement has been done, but we are now going through logistics issues. Also, there is a high demand for the rapid test kits, not only from Malaysia, but globally," Dr Noor Hisham told reporters during his daily briefing on the Covid-19 situation in the country. “So, now we are going through G2G, with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the South Korean Embassy, to see how best we can actually facilitate the import of this test kits," Dr Noor Hisham added. Earlier, the DG said MoH had approved the use of antigen rapid test kits from South Korea that will help the ministry achieve its target capacity of 16,500 Covid-19 tests per day, nationwide. At the time, he said the ministry had already placed a procurement order with South Korean firm SD Biosensor and that the test kits might arrive as early as this week.

Covid-19: M'sia likely to stick with targeted testing, says Health DG The Star Online 22nd Apr 2020
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia's targeted approach when it comes to mass testing for Covid-19 has shown good outcomes, says the Health Ministry. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry had adopted this approach since day one of the Covid-19 outbreak and would likely stick with it.

Logistics, high demand delaying rapid test kit from Korea Free Malaysia Today 22nd Apr 2020
The health ministry on April 22 said the delay in the arrival of Covid-19 rapid test kits from South Korea was due to logistical issues and the high demand for such gadgets. However, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it should arrive earliest by Friday or next week. “Now we are looking at a G2G (government-to- government) initiative to assist us in how we can best facilitate the import of this test kit.” He hoped Wisma Putra will continue assisting the health ministry to obtain the test kit as soon as possible. Earlier this month, the health ministry said it would start using antigen rapid test kits from South Korea, which have proven to have high accuracy. Noor Hisham had previously said the ministry hoped to order up to one million units of these rapid test kits. The rapid test kit, Noor Hisham said, will complement its reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests in use at the ministry’s 43 labs. With the rapid test kit, Noor Hisham said health workers will be able to “go to the community” and take swabs at airports (including passengers in transit) or clinics. They can obtain the results in 30 to 45 minutes.

Assistive diagnostic AI tool to tackle COVID-19 in Malaysia BioSpectrumAsia 20th Apr 2020
Skymind Holdings (Skymind), the world’s first dedicated Artificial Intelligence (AI) ecosystem builder, recently delivered Axial AI-based system to Hospital Tunku Azizah Kuala Lumpur in its mission to advance the adoption of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in clinical and healthcare research on COVID-19 in Malaysia. Skymind Holdings, an AI ecosystem builder delivered an AI-based system in Hospital Tunku Azizah Kuala Lumpur in its effort to advance the adoption of analytics and AI in clinical and healthcare in Malaysia. This is a first step towards building a global research community driven by AI to resolve the current and future diseases or pandemics.

Remdesivir has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in Malaysia The Edge Markets 18th Apr 2020
Antiviral drug ‘remdesivir’ has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in the country, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. He said, however, the ministry was still monitoring the results of its use, and it was too early to share anything. "What is certain is that we do not have any issues with the drug, nor others. In terms of stock, we have a sufficient amount to treat patients," he said during the daily COVID-19 press conference on April 18. Dr Noor Hisham had previously stated that drugs such as Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine and a combination of Lopinavir/Ritonavir had been used to treat the virus. Meanwhile, on the antigen rapid test kit from South Korea, Dr Noor Hisham said it cost less than RM50 per kit, but MOH was still negotiating for a lower price.

Myanmar

Virus Adds to Challenges for Myanmar’s Insurance Sector Bloomberg.com 26th Apr 2020
The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted Myanmar’s efforts to develop its fledgling insurance industry. At the same time, it’s showing why coverage is important, according to Dai-ichi Life Insurance Myanmar Ltd. The crisis highlights the value of health-care and life coverage in a nation where only about two out of 10,000 people have insurance, said Zarchi Tin, the firm’s chief executive officer. An economic slowdown may make premiums less affordable for some people, she said.

Mandalay prepares new lab for COVID-19 testing The Myanmar Times 23rd Apr 2020
Mandalay has received its own COVID-19 testing machine from Singapore and aims to start testing patients by the end of May, said U Sai Pan Saing, chair of Regional COVID-19 Information Committee. The machine will be installed on 35th Street, Mandalay, at a laboratory now occupied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mandalay Region has issued an announcement that those who come back into the region from states and regions with positive cases of the disease must complete a 21-day compulsory facility quarantine and 7-day home quarantine, effective April 21.

Curfew order imposed in seven townships of Kayah State The Myanmar Times 22nd Apr 2020
The 10pm-4am curfew order under section 144 of the penal code was imposed in seven townships of Kayah State with effect from April 21 as measures against the COVID-19 outbreak. The order will apply in Loikaw, Demoso, Phayuso, Shataw, Bawlakhe, Phasaung and Maese townships until May 20.

World Bank to lend $50 mln in Fast-Track Financing for Fighting COVID-19 in Myanmar Global New Light Of Myanmar 20th Apr 2020
The World Bank said it has approved a US$50 million credit for the Myanmar COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, as part of global emergency support operations through a dedicated fast-track COVID-19 facility. The project primarily focuses on upscaling of Intensive Care Units (ICU) at selected hospitals, along with capacity building of health staff and officials, and community engagement activities throughout the country. 8 central level hospitals and 43 Region and State level hospitals, across all Regions and States, will be covered, with implementation rolled out in a phased manner, starting with the most at-risk areas, such as densely populated areas and areas with frequent travel and migration.

Yangon imposes 10pm-4am curfew The Myanmar Times 18th Apr 2020
The Yangon region government has announced a 10pm-4am curfew for all Yangon townships effective April 18. The announcement comes after the Myanmar government on April 16 banned gatherings of five and above following a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Action will be taken in the event of failure to comply with the new rules.

Philippines

DOH on alert for return of dengue during COVID-19 pandemic The Inquirer 27th Apr 2020
The Philippines faces a struggle on two health fronts in the coming rainy season, with the return of dengue compounding efforts to drive away the new coronavirus. But the Department of Health (DOH) says it is ensuring that dealing with rainy season diseases like dengue will not add to the burden of the country’s health-care system in fighting COVID-19, the severe respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Donors to six priority projects get tax breaks philstar.com 26th Apr 2020
IG Biotech Group, a coalition of biotech and pharmaceutical experts, aims to bring to the Philippines an antibody-based prevention and treatment for COVID-19 by the third quarter of 2020. The proposed antibody-based treatment is meant to alleviate active infections and provide short-term immunity or prophylaxis, against the virus, while the commercial production of COVID-19 vaccine is still far at hand.

DOST in search of designers of respirators, ventilators to be used in fight vs COVID-19 Eagle News 26th Apr 2020
The Department of Science and Technology is looking for individuals willing to design ventilators and respirators for use in the country’s fight against COVID-19. In a statement on Sunday, April 26, the DOST called on designers to submit their concept proposals — including preliminary work, description of design, work plan, deliverables — and a letter of intent from the medical expert or hospital and the budget.

Off-label drugs may now be used in PH coronavirus clinical trials – DOH Rappler 26th Apr 2020
The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Sunday, April 26, that off-label drugs may now be used in clinical trials in the Philippines to test possible cures for the coronavirus. During the department's regular afternoon briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH is coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO) for the arrival and storage of medication that are part of the global solidarity trial which aims to find a treatment for COVID-19. These off-label drugs, explained Vergeire, are used to treat other diseases, but will be tested by hospitals and doctors on patients in the solidarity trial to see if they can help against the coronavirus.

DOH-10 implements mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases Philippines Information Agency 26th Apr 2020
The Department of Health (DOH)-10 and the local government units (LGUs) are implementing mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concerns in cooperation of public and private doctors, and other allied medical personnel to gather data and impede the spread of communicable diseases within the region. Republic Act (RA) 11332 otherwise known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act” mandates all health workers in all levels to report in an efficient and effective disease surveillance system.

Philippines President Extends Manila's Coronavirus Lockdown to May 15 Chiang Rai Times 25th Apr 2020
NEWSPhilippines President Extends Manila’s Coronavirus Lockdown to May 15Published 2 days ago on April 25, 2020By CTN NewsPhilippines extends capital's coronavirus lockdown Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended until May 15 a lockdown in the capital Manila, his spokesman said on Friday. Stretching to eight weeks one of the world’s strictest community quarantines to curb coronavirus infections. The measures will be expanded to other regions with big outbreaks but modified in lower-risk areas, which would see a partial resumption of work, transport and commerce, Harry Roque told reporters. Television broadcast images on Friday of a crisis panel meeting where Duterte had made the decision late the previous day. He even offered a reward of 50 million pesos (32 million baht) to any Filipino who could create a vaccine.

Poll: 80% of Filipinos ‘satisfied’ with gov’t response to health crisis The Inquirer 24th Apr 2020
Malacañang hailed the findings of the global polling firm Gallup International which indicated that 80 percent, or majority, of Filipinos are satisfied with the government’s response to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis. “President Duterte is thankful that 80 percent of Filipinos believe that the government handled the COVID-19 issue well,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing, referring to the results of a Gallup poll conducted from April 6 to 8 in several countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in Southeast Asia.

GSIS to give additional P500k life insurance to COVID-19 gov't frontliners GMA News Online 23rd Apr 2020
The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) said it will provide additional life insurance coverage to 27,682 frontline workers of the government nationwide in the battle against COVID-19. This was announced in a statemennt by GSIS president and general manager Rolando Ledesma Macasaet. “The GSIS Board of Trustees, headed by our Chairman, former Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, recently approved the establishment of the Bayanihan Fund for Frontliners (BFF), which entitles the survivors of government frontliners who died of COVID-19 to receive an additional P500,000 in insurance benefits,” Macasaet said.

Philippines eases ban on overseas travel of health workers Health Care Asia Magazine 22nd Apr 2020
The Philippines is allowing health workers with existing overseas contracts to leave, relaxing an order earlier this month to keep them in the country to reinforce the healthcare system amid the pandemic, Bloomberg reported. Future applications for health-care jobs abroad are “frozen until further notice,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, who called the ban unconstitutional, said on Monday. President Rodrigo Duterte said that while he doesn’t blame the nurses who wish to return overseas and won’t hold them against their will, the situation empowers the state to impose a ban.

FDA Memorandum No. 2020-011 || Performance Testing of Antibody Test kits with Issued Special Certification Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines 20th Apr 2020
The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun postmarket validation of the performance of COVID-19 antibody test kits that come to market via a pandemic pathway. Last month, the agency began granting special certification to imported in vitro diagnostics for use in testing related to COVID-19. The pathway enabled companies to bring tests to market in the Philippines on the strength of registration issued by a foreign regulator, a valid license to operate, a letter of intent about exemption from registration and a fee. That set of requirements remains in place but companies that use the pathway now face postmarket scrutiny.

Singapore

Doctor Anywhere rolls out teleconsultation for suspected COVID-19 cases Health Care Asia Magazine 22nd Apr 2020
Singapore-based telehealth firm Doctor Anywhere is launching an online advisory clinic for patients who are suspecting to have COVID-19, according to a press release. The COVID-19 Medical Advisory Clinic aims to help to identify COVID-19 signs and symptoms and escalate suspected cases for further medical assistance. For individuals in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, this will be a full suite service.

Singapore designs AI platform to combat infectious diseases BioSpectrumAsia 27th Apr 2020
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, researchers around the world are attempting to find the most effective treatment to combat the poorly understood virus behind this disease. With this in mind, Professor Dean Ho from the National University of Singapore (NUS) led a multidisciplinary team of researchers to come up with a pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) platform known as ‘IDentif.AI’ (Identifying Infectious Disease Combination Therapy with Artificial Intelligence) to dramatically increase the efficiency of this development.

Critical self-reliant healthcare life-supporting supply chain to emerge post COVID19 BioSpectrumAsia 27th Apr 2020
Singapore based ABM Respiratory Care, a medical device company focused on the development and commercialization of airway clearance and ventilation solutions has developed an innovative ventilator which helps healthcare professionals monitor and program the device from anywhere in the world in real-time. ABM is preparing for fast-track approval of its Tele-Ventilator with regulatory agencies in several countries, including Singapore. Biospectrum Asia explored more on the prevailing Global ventilator demand-supply crisis with Mr Vinay Joshi, CEO and Head QA RA, ABM Respiratory Care.

Singapore explores immunotherapy for COVID-19 treatment BioSpectrumAsia 24th Apr 2020
The engineering of specific virus-targeting receptors onto a patient’s own immune cells is now being explored by scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School (DukeNUS), as a potential therapy for controlling infectious diseases, including the COVID-19-causing virus, SARS-CoV-2. This therapy that has revolutionised the treatment of patients with cancer has also been used in the treatment of other infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B virus (HBV), as discussed by the School’s researchers in a commentary published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Non-invasive cardio-respiratory sensor to predict clinical respiratory deterioration BioSpectrumAsia 23rd Apr 2020
The National University Hospital (NUH), NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) and Respiree Pte Ltd announced today that they are collaborating on a research study to develop predictive models using respiratory rate and breathing variability to detect clinical deterioration in patients suffering from acute respiratory failure and pneumonia early and accurately. Emerging infections such as COVID-19 affect the respiratory system causing pneumonia, pneumonitis, and respiratory failure. The coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) central to the outbreak is highly contagious with over 2 million cases spanning more than 160 countries and 152,000 deaths (as of 19 April 2020). Most were 30-79 years of age (87%) and classified as mild (81%: no and mild pneumonia). However, 14% had severe pneumonia requiring oxygen therapy and 5% critically ill with shock and multi-organ dysfunction. The overall case-fatality rate is 2-3%.

COVID-19: Network analysis tool developed by DSTA speeds up contact tracing, helped link Mustafa Centre and dorms CNA 23rd Apr 2020
A network analysis tool that helps automate contact tracing was able to plot links between COVID-19 clusters in Singapore. The Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) said that relevant case information was fed into the tool developed by its engineers from early April. Explaining how the network analysis tool works, DSTA said that it maps out a visual network of cases using data analytics. Orange nodes represent people that the cases had come into contact with, while brown nodes represent the locations they had visited. The links between nodes, symbolised by arrows, indicate their relationship to one another. 

Singapore's HC Surgical buys control stake in endoscopy business for $536,060 Health Care Asia Magazine 22nd Apr 2020
Singapore-based HC Surgical Specialists (HCSS) is buying 51% of the total share capital of GMH Endoscopy & Surgery (GMHES) from GMH Surgical for $536,060 (S$765,000), according to a press release. With the acquisition, GMHES will become a subsidiary of the group. With the addition of specialist surgeon Goh Minghui, who has been assigned to manage GMHES for a minimum of 11 years, HCSS will expand its team of specialists to six.

Entrepreneurship flourishes amid pandemic in Singapore BioSpectrumAsia 22nd Apr 2020
Singapore based early-stage VC Antler has received over 1500 applications from 100 countries in barely two weeks since it launched its COVID-19 call to startups. Startups applied for funding with various solutions to tackle the current pandemic. Antler is currently shortlisting and interviewing the teams and plans to invest in up to 5 teams and deploy up to US$500,000 in aggregate.

Singapore-listed ISEC Healthcare's profit fell 37% to $974,680m in Q1 Health Care Asia Magazine 22nd Apr 2020
Medical eye care company ISEC Healthcare's profit crashed 37% to $974,680 (S$1.39m) in Q1 2020, from $1.56m (S$2.22m) in Q1 2019, according to a bourse filing. Revenue dropped 7% to $6.5m (S$9.27m) over the same period. The fall in revenue was mainly attributed to decreased business activities from the group’s specialised health services segment in both Malaysia and Singapore, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in both regions. Malaysia in particular, being the group’s main revenue contributor, announced a national movement control order measures.

Singapore extends partial lockdown until June 1 as infections surge The Jakarta Post 21st Apr 2020
Singapore will extend a partial lockdown until June 1 to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the city-state, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday. The measures, which include the closures of most workplaces and schools and are called a "circuit breaker" by authorities, were initially set to run until May 4. But the city-state has seen a sharp jump in cases in recent weeks fuelled by infections in cramped migrant worker dormitories, many of which are under government-ordered quarantines.

Singapore creates world’s first IOT-enabled Tele-Ventilator BioSpectrumAsia 20th Apr 2020
Singapore based ABM Respiratory Care, a medical device company focused on the development and commercialization of airway clearance and ventilation solutions has developed an innovative ventilator which helps healthcare professionals monitor and program the device from anywhere in the world in real-time. ABM is preparing for fast-track approval of its Tele-Ventilator with regulatory agencies in several countries, including Singapore.

NEA calls for urgent community action as yearly dengue figures set to exceed 2019's 16,000 cases The Straits Times 20th Apr 2020
With the total number of local dengue cases this year as of mid-April already more than double that a year ago, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has called for urgent community action to fight dengue. The NEA advised those working from home to pay more attention to mosquito breeding sites at home and ensure these sites are removed. It has found a 50 per cent increase in Aedes mosquito larval breeding sites found in homes over the last three years, compared with the three years before.

NTU builds disinfection robot to tackle COVID-19 outbreak BioSpectrumAsia 17th Apr 2020
Researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a semi-autonomous robot that can disinfect large surfaces quickly. The researchers are planning to have public trials to support Singapore’s fight against COVID-19. Named eXtreme Disinfection roBOT (XDBOT), it can be wirelessly controlled via a laptop or tablet, removing the need for cleaners to be in contact with surfaces, thereby reducing the risk of picking up the virus from potentially contaminated areas.

Thailand

Emergency decree extended Bangkok Post 27th Apr 2020
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Monday decided to extend the Emergency Decree for another month after it expires on April 30. CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said on Monday the decree will be extended to the end of May. The reason is concern about the return of the virus, with the centre still battling to stop it spreading any further.

Pharmacy Council urges caution over Thailand joining the CPTPP Pharmacy Council urges caution over Thailand joining the CPTPP 26th Apr 2020
The Pharmacy Council of Thailand (PCT) has urged the Government not to rush into joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, fearing that early entry, without taking into account inputs from all stakeholders, may hurt the domestic pharmaceutical industry and hinder access to affordable medicines. The PCT voiced its concern after it learned that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak will propose, at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, that Thailand should send a letter of intent to the trade bloc, expressing its intent to join the grouping. Since the submission of the letter is the first step in entering into the multi-lateral agreement, the PCT suggested that the Thai government should not offer to amend certain Thai regulations, to bring them in line with CPTPP, but should make use of the current Thai regulations as a bargaining chip to protect Thai national interests relating to the country’s health care system and patent linkage.

Govt denies 'gold card' budget cut Bangkok Post 26th Apr 2020
The Public Health Ministry yesterday denied claims the cabinet has approved a 2.4 billion baht budget cut in the "gold card" scheme. Clarifying media reports, permanent secretary Sukhum Karnchanapimai said the government had in fact given three billion baht to the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which oversees the Universal Healthcare Coverage, known as the gold card scheme. The money had been allocated from the central budget for emergency purposes, following the cabinet's concern the NHSO may not have enough money to run its health welfare programme during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

Government defends universal healthcare budget cut Bangkok Post 25th Apr 2020
The government says the medical benefits people receive under the universal healthcare programme remain intact even though a cabinet resolution showed 2.4 billion baht would be cut from the budget. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat gave the assurances on Saturday after news broke that the budget allocated to the National Health Security Office (NHSO) was among those to be trimmed so more funds can be mobilised to stem the coronavirus plague. She said the budget for the programme had not been cut. In fact, she said, the cabinet earlier approved 3 billion baht from the contingency fund to the NHSO to cover the extra costs incurred during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Thailand names 5 more ASEAN countries as 'high risk', 4 are border nations The Thaiger 23rd Apr 2020
A Ministry of Public Health announcement yesterday, signed by Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, and published in the Royal Gazette, claims the Covid-19 situation in 5 nearby countries is escalating. Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Myanmar have now been added to the list of countries and territories considered as high risk areas for infection. On March 6, Thailand had named four countries: China (including Hong Kong and Macau), South Korea, Italy and Iran, as being high risk areas for Covid-19 infection, though Hong Kong and South Korea have contained their outbreaks admirably.

HealthMin to Spend 45 Bil. Baht on COVID-19 Vaccine Research Khaosod English 23rd Apr 2020
Thailand’s Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul on Wednesday told the media that he had told the National Vaccines Committee (NVC) and the private sectors to quickly develop the specifications for the production of a COVID-19 vaccine. The minister said an estimated 45 billion baht (1.39 billion U.S. dollars) for the vaccine research will be part of the 1.9 trillion baht (58.7 billion U.S. dollars) loan granted by the government. The NVC said that candidate vaccines will have to go through mandatory trials, on animals and humans, to prove their safety, efficacy and ability to generate antibodies.

5G paves telemedicine path Bangkok Post 17th Apr 2020
Telemedicine is likely to be the new normal for public health services soon, thanks to the development of a series of robots for the task, including those tending to coronavirus patients at hospitals. "The arrival of 5G capabilities is well-timed, coming when efforts are being made to invent and create 5G tech for lives, starting with medical services," said Wasit Wattanasap, head of nationwide operations and the support department of Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's top mobile operator by subscribers. The use of 5G technology is expected to expand to benefit other sectors as well, Mr Wasit said.

Vietnam

HCM City launches pharmaceutical price stabilisation programme vietnamnews.vn 20th Apr 2020
The People’s Committee of HCM City has begun its pharmaceutical price stabilisation programme for the 2020-2021 period to meet the need for essential drugs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes 19 groups of drugs to treat common and chronic diseases as well as drugs used in the treatment of COVID-19, produced by the country’s factories meeting World Health Organisation’s good manufacturing practices. The prices of the drugs are 5-10 per cent lower than the prices of similar products in the market.

Truscreen : expands to Vietnam with Ministry of Health Approval MarketScreener 20th Apr 2020
TruScreen Limited (NZX:TRU) (TruScreen or the 'Company') is pleased to advise that it has received approval from the Ministry of Health (MOH) of the Vietnam Government for the commercial roll out of the TruScreen cervical cancer screening device. This landmark approval is granted initially for the Hanoi Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital (HOGH). It is anticipated that further rollouts across other public and private hospitals in Vietnam will occur this year. The approval follows a MOH managed clinical trial covering 989 patients which was concluded successfully with a positive clinical outcome at the HOGH. The trial compared the specificity and sensitivity between the results from the TruScreen hand held real time screening device and Pap test for the detection of cervical early stage pre-cancerous, and progressing intraepithelial lesions. The outcome of the trial was assessed by the Vietnam Ministry of Health Professional Advisory Committee which endorsed and approved the introduction of TruScreen cervical cancer screening technology in Vietnam.

Remote health check-up platform, COVID-19 prevention app launched vietnamnews.vn 19th Apr 2020
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc attended a ceremony on Saturday to launch two new high tech apps to help prevent and control COVID-19. The technology will allow medical examinations and treatment to be carried out remotely. The second piece of equipment uses a Bluezone app and can detect other people nearby who are positive for the virus through previously saved data. This will help the authorities track and trace people who have come into close contact with positive patients.

Ministry of Public Security to investigate Hà Nội’s medical equipment purchase vietnamnews.vn 17th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Public Security has summoned officials of the Hà Nội Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to clarify the purchase of medical equipment, said chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyễn Đức Chung on Friday. At a meeting of the city steering committee on COVID-19 prevention and control, Chung said the police department for corruption, economic crimes and smuggling will investigate the case and all violations must be strictly punished.

PM allows exports of medical face masks vietnamnews.vn 17th Apr 2020
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has approved the export of medical face masks and protective clothing, as long as domestic demand, including reserves, is met first. These products could only be exported to countries that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Phúc asked. Phúc urged the ministries of health and industry and trade to take early actions so producers could export medical face masks and protective clothing as many countries are facing shortages of these products in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disinfection robot put into trial operation amid COVID-19 fight vietnamnews.vn 16th Apr 2020
Researchers from the National Centre for Technological Progress have developed a robot that can disinfect large surfaces quickly to support Việt Nam’s fight against COVID-19. The robot named NaRoVid1 is designed to sanitise the surfaces of hospital rooms. It has been put into trial operation at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases No2 in Hà Nội’s Đông Anh District since April 15. NaRoVid1 is the disinfection product the Ministry of Science and Technology assigned the National Centre for Technological Progress to complete in more than two weeks.

Việt Nam to stop exporting COVID-19 treatment medicines from April 16 vietnamnews.vn 16th Apr 2020
The Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) requires all local drug manufacturing, exporting and importing firms to suspend the export of drugs used in the treatment of COVID-19 from April 16. On the morning of April 16, DAV sent a letter to all firms that produce, import and export drugs about temporarily stopping the export of COVID-19 medicines. DAV said the move was to implement the Prime Minister's instruction in Directive No. 15 / CT-TTg dated March 27, 2020 that mobilises all stakeholders in Việt Nam to join the fight against the pandemic.