COVID-19 PANDEMIC Day 139: ASIA & PACIFIC COVID-19, a litmus test for ASEAN



COVID-19, a litmus test for ASEAN

Top (left to right) Dr. Dr. Lee Edson P. Yarcia, JD, Health Law, and Policy Reform Consultant, Philippines; H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesian Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Bottom (left to right): Dr. Deasy Simandjuntak, Associate Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, and Visiting Fellow at Academia Sinica, Taipei; Mr. Thet Swe Win, Executive Director Synergy – Social Harmony Organization, and Co-Founder of Myanmar COVID-19 Response Center

BANGKOK – With over 13,000 cases of COVID-19 in the ASEAN Region, many countries are still treating the pandemic as a security issue rather than a health and medical issue. This was an observation shared by the civil society groups in South East Asia in a web conference discussing the region’s present and future condition in time of COVID-19 on 13 April.

“In Myanmar, more people are killed by the Army, much more than the COVID-19,” Thet Swe Win the Co-Founder of Myanmar COVID-19 Response Center, said. Myanmar has 4 recorded COVID-19 deaths while 142 civilian deaths in Arakan State during the week.

In the Philippines, police force and the military are mobilized to enforce quarantine measures. Police are also tapped in Thailand to apprehend curfew violators since it imposed the partial lockdown in various cities and provinces starting March 24.

Sriprapha Petcharamesree, former Thai Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and Programme Chair of SHAPE-SEA (Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia) said even before the pandemic, the political trend in the region is not democratic.


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“Although countries have implemented varying measures to response to COVID-19, a worrying trend is the use of repressive laws, such as emergency powers,” she said.


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Following the example of Wuhan which became the epicenter of COVID-19, various countries try to imitate its success in flattening the curve.

In the Philippines, a month-long total lockdown was imposed but extended until April 30. In Myanmar, the 10-day lockdown started on April 13 while Jakarta in the Indonesian capital started on April 10. Other cities and provinces will follow suit depending on their governors. Thailand and Laos closed their borders starting March 21 and imposed month-long restrictions on movement.

Deasy Simandjuntak, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore and an expert on Indonesian issues, said that some sort of lockdown are considered depending on the socio-economic situation of the country.

Simandjuntak explained that to contain the infection, countries need to suppress and flatten the curve.

“To suppress means to slash the infection daily and the only way to do it is to restrict movement or lockdown. To flatten the curve does not mean lower numbers of infection but measures are done so our hospitals will not be burdened.”

To flatten the curve measures such as physical distancing, track and tracing, and testing are implemented.


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Right to Health is human rights

ASEAN countries are left to their own devices in addressing the pandemic. Hence, the relevance of the organization is now in question. Civil society and human rights groups identified the human rights facing the people particularly the marginalized and vulnerable groups which are mostly left out and have become collateral damage.

Among the human rights issues discussed in the forum were food insecurity, domestic violence, stigmatization and xenophobia. Lack of support and discrimination against health workers and infected patients are one of the trends in the region.

‘In Myanmar, the number of COVID-19 cases appear low because there aren’t enough facilities for testing. But what we’re most worried about the social impact of the virus: victim-blaming and shaming, as well as anxiety,’ Thet Swe Win said.

He also said that migrant workers returning to Myanmar are reluctant to reveal their true travel history to health care professionals which may result in more infections.

Although some countries may not be able to provide adequate measures to assist their citizens, denying them basic services like food, medical care and necessary services is inexcusable. Dr. Lee Edson P. Yarcia, also a lawyer and Health Law and Policy Reform Consultant from the Philippines emphasized that under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the States have the obligation to ensure the right to health standard.

“States have obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights even during pandemics,” he said.


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Freedom of Expression

COVID-19 has become an excuse to impose draconian measures and emergency laws that suppress freedom of speech and as well as the legitimate call of the people for improved health and medical services.

“When a government chooses not to disclose data, it creates a false sense of security. Government suppresses information for fear of social and political unrest,” Simandjuntak said.

Dr. Yarcia mentioned that in the Philippines, social media has become a tool to resist abuses from the government. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also actively pursuing cases against government critics. Due to the backlash in social media, the NBI steps back.

Dr. Yarcia said that monitoring and documentation process on the abuses of the authorities in times of pandemic are important in transitional justice later on.

“Government accountability can be pursued. Challenge government more, mobilize our networks and resist any forms of abuses from our governments,” Dr. Yarcia said.


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COVID-19 and the ASEAN

To remain relevant, the ASEAN member countries particularly the AICHR to develop monitoring systems to monitor the human rights impact of the pandemic and to develop a common position on human rights. Despite the challenges, particularly the COVID-19 which definitely lead the region to joblessness, economic slow-down, high rate of poverty, optimism remains.

However, Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesian Representative to AICHR said that the main challenge in the ASEAN is the reluctance to transparently share information making it difficult for ASEAN as a regional entity to move forward in overcoming COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is the new normal. We have to explore further on how AICHR work, open to more inputs and opportunities for change,” Wahyuningrum said.

Dr. Yarci emphasized that the member countries must go back to the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda Goals for 2020 which states, “to promote resilient health system in response to communicable diseases, emerging infectious diseases, and neglected tropical diseases.”

The webinar on ASEAN Community and COVID-19: An Assessment of an Infected Region’s Present and Future Condition is the second part of the six series webinar starting April and May 2020 on: The Status of Human Rights in the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic in Southeast Asia organized by Asian Forum for Human Development (Forum-Asia) and SHAPE-SEA./ By: Eunice Barbara C. Novio –

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.


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MANILA- Philippines records 18 new coronavirus deaths, 284 more cases

FILE PHOTO: Empty streets are seen as the lockdown continues to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila
FILE PHOTO: Empty streets are seen as the lockdown continues to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine health ministry on Monday reported 18 new coronavirus deaths and 284 additional infections.

In a bulletin, the health ministry said total deaths have reached 315, while confirmed cases have increased to 4,932, adding 45 patients have recovered, bringing the total to 242.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Mark Potter)



(as of April 13, 2020 – 4:00 PM)


Coronavirus deaths spike ahead of mass testing in Philippines

Reverend Father Mark de Leon walking down the aisle in an empty Holy Rosary Parish Church at the start of a procession for Easter Mass in Angeles City in the Philippines' Pampanga province yesterday. In place of parishioners who were not present due
Reverend Father Mark de Leon walking down the aisle in an empty Holy Rosary Parish Church at the start of a procession for Easter Mass in Angeles City in the Philippines’ Pampanga province yesterday. In place of parishioners who were not present due to social distancing measures amid the coronavirus outbreak, their photos were taped to the church pews. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Supply of testing kits, labs set to help govt better gauge efficacy of community quarantine measures.

Philippine health officials yesterday reported a record number of deaths in one day from the coronavirus, two days before they begin mass testing, which is expected to lead to a spike in the number of confirmed infections.




SINGAPORE- Record 386 new coronavirus cases in S’pore; 65-year-old S’porean man becomes 9th person to die from virus

There are 222 more cases linked to the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, Singapore's largest cluster which now has 586 cases.There are 222 more cases linked to the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, Singapore’s largest cluster which now has 586 cases.PHOTO: ST FILE / Tiffany Fumiko Tay

SINGAPORE – Singapore reported a record 386 new cases of Covid-19 infection on Monday (April 13), of which 280 are linked to known clusters.

The vast majority of these are foreign workers living in dormitories, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its daily update.

A 65-year-old Singaporean man has also become the ninth here to die of complications due to Covid-19 infection.

The man was first confirmed to be infected on April 9, the ministry said in a statement, adding that Khoo Teck Puat Hospital has reached out to his family and is extending assistance to them.

There are also 222 more cases linked to the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, Singapore’s largest cluster which now has 586 cases.

Four new clusters have also been uncovered at facade installation company CitiWall at Kaki Bukit Crescent, ABC Hostel at Jalan Kubor, Tech Park Crescent dormitory and Kranji Dormitory.

A 77-year-old resident of Vanguard Healthcare’s Woodlands Care Home was also among the new cases. The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) said in a statement on Monday that he is in an isolation room at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Contact tracing is ongoing and those who had close contact with the resident will be quarantined, a spokesman said.

The Senior Care Centre located at Woodlands Care Home has remained open during the circuit breaker to care for clients with no alternative arrangements, but it will now be closed, AIC said.

Alternative arrangements have been made for the centre’s clients, while another centre has been appointed as a replacement, it added.

E-Bridge Preschool at Corporation Drive has also shut temporarily, after a child who was last at the centre on April 7 tested positive for Covid-19.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said on Monday that the centre will be closed until April 21 and contact tracing is under way. The premises will undergo thorough cleaning and disinfection, it added.

The centre will resume limited service provision thereafter to serve parents who are working in essential services and unable to extend their alternative care arrangements beyond the closure period.

The MOH said that another 26 patients were discharged on Monday, bringing the total of those who have fully recovered to 586.

Of the 1,158 confirmed cases still in hospital, most are stable or improving, while 29 are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

The latest cases bring Singapore’s total to 2,918.




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BANGKOK- Thailand logs 34 new Covid-19 cases, 1 more death TuesdayA man wears a protective face mask with Songkran's traditional flowers stamp at Hua Lamphong train station, during the coronavirus disease outbreak (Covid-19), in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Reuters photo)

A man wears a protective face mask with Songkran’s traditional flowers stamp at Hua Lamphong train station, during the coronavirus disease outbreak (Covid-19), in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Reuters photo)

Thailand reported 34 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, for a total of 2,613 cases, a health official said. There was one additional death, that of a Bangkok bus driver who had been drinking with nine infected people, taking the nation’s toll to 41.

The number of confirmed new cases was higher than the 28 recorded on Monday, and the uptick comes after six straight days of declines since the 111 recorded on April 8.

The peak number of confirmed cases so far was the 188 recorded on March 22.

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Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said the deceased bus driver was a 52-year-old woman who suffered from hypertension and an enlarged heart. She had been drinking with friends, one of whom was previously infected with Covid-19. Eight others in the drinking party developed symptoms later.

The woman fell sick on March 26 with a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and phlegm. She was examined at a hospital in Samut Prakan province and returned to work.

On April 3 she developed a fever and also had diarrhorea, shortness of breath and fatigue. She tested positive for Covid-19 on April 4 and died on Sunday.

“Ten people in her drinking group tested positive for Covid-19. We have learned from the fatalities, and it will be good to refrain from the activities they participated in,” Dr Taweesilp said. Her death raised the accumulated toll in Thailand to 41.

The bus driver’s death caused an outcry when it was first reported on Monday afternoon, because the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority allegedly failed to disclose her diagnosis after she tested positive on April 4.

The 34 new cases recorded on Tuesday included 27 people in close contact with previous patients, two people who returned from Italy and Malaysia, two medical personnel, one visitor to a crowded place, one who worked in a crowded place and one person who was quarantined in Satun province after returning from Indonesia.

The 34 patients comprised eight in Bangkok, six in Yala, five each in Pattani and Phuket, four in Nakhon Si Thammarat, two in Samut Prakan, one each in Loei, Phanga and Satun and one case under investigation.

The accumulated 2,613 cases were reported in 68 provinces. Bangkok had the biggest share with 1,311 cases, followed by 186 cases in Phuket, 150 in Nonthaburi, 107 in Samut Prakan, 90 in Yala and 82 in Pattani.

Per 100,000 population, Phuket showed the biggest number of patients with 44.99, followed by 23.12 in Bangkok, 16.84 in Yala and 11.94 in Nonthaburi.

Nine provinces remained free of Covid-19 cases: Ang Thong, Bung Kan, Chai Nat, Kamphaeng Phet, Nan, Phichit, Ranong, Sing Buri and Trat.

So far, 1,405 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals while 1,167 remained hospitalised. The biggest group of patients was in the age range of 30-39, the spokesman said.

He pointed out that 61 out of over 70 returnees from Indonesia had already tested positive for Covid-19.

“This raises concerns about other Thai people returning from other countries,” Dr Taweesilp said. “What would have happened to local communities and the country if these people had just returned home and not been quarantined.”

Because a relatively small number of people have been tested, it is impossible to say how far and how fast the virus is spreading, and it is essential to maintain frequent hand washing — for 20 seconds each time — as well as strict social distancing.

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HA NOI, Viet Nam- Việt Nam now has 168 recovered COVID-19 patients.

A health worker takes care of COVID-19 patients at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases. — Photo courtesy of the hospital

HÀ NỘI — Another 22 COVID-19 cases, including five foreign patients and 17 Vietnamese patients, have recovered and been discharged from the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hà Nội and the Củ Chi field hospital in HCM City, on Tuesday.

The new recoveries have brought the country’s total number of cured cases to 168, making up 63.4 per cent of the total 265 COVID-19 patients in Việt Nam.

At the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, there are 17 recovered patients, including two foreign patients and 15 Vietnamese patients.

They are: Patient 24 (male, 69, British national); Patient 50 (male, 50, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 87 (female, 32, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 109 (male, 42, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 114 (male, 19, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 115 (female, 44, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 175 (male, 57, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 177 (female, 49, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 186 (female, 60, French national); Patient 189 (female, 46, Vietnamese nationality);Patient 190 (female, 49, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 199 (female, 57, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 208 (female, 38, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 214 (female, 45, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 220 (male, 20, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 232 (male, 67, Vietnamese nationality); and Patient 239 (male, 71, Vietnamese nationality).

Of the recovered cases, two patients, including a British national and one Vietnamese, were in critical condition at the hospital’s intensive care unit. These people all had severe symptoms when they were admitted to the hospital, but now their health is completely stable.

Three others (Patient 177, Patient 189 and Patient 190) are workers of Trường Sinh Service Company at the Bạch Mai General Hospital.

At the Củ Chi field hospital, there are five recovered patients, including three foreign patients and two Vietnamese patients. They are: Patient 92 (male, 21, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 124 (male, 51, Brazilian nationality); Patient 127 (male, 23, Vietnamese nationality); Patient 143 (female, 58, South African nationality); and Patient 235 (male, 25, British national).

These patients tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 three times. They now have no cough, no fever and are in a stable condition. They will continue to be isolated and monitored for the next 14 days. — VNS


British patient recovers, no new cases reported.

The British patient who recovered from COVID-19 and was discharged from the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases late night on April 13, with his wife and medical staff. — Photo courtesy of the hospital

HÀ NỘI — A British man with a 10-year history of lymphoma cancer has been discharged from hospital after making a full recovery from COVID-19.

He is the 146th patient to be given the all-clear.

Upon his release the man’s wife, who also made a full recovery from the disease, praised the medical staff.

“I would like to express my sincere thank to the Vietnamese doctors,” she said. “They are very amazing!”

On Tuesday morning, the Ministry of Health said no new cases of coronavirus had been detected overnight, with the total number of infections nationwide remaining at 265.

More than half have been treated and discharged.

The latest patient to leave hospital is a 74-year-old man from the UK who came to Viet Nam with his wife last month. She also tested positive for the virus.

On March 27 while being treated at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases he suffered severe respiratory failure and was sent to the intensive care unit where he was put on a ventilator.

Doctors fought for a week as the man’s health deteriorated rapidly.

By April 5 he started to respond to treatment and began breathing without the need for oxygen.

Two further tests for COVID-19 taken on April 8 and 10 both produced negative results and he was eventually told he could go home.

His wife said: “We were sent to the National Tropical Diseases Hospital when I coughed a lot and had some breathing troubles.

“But after a period of treatment, I had three tests with negative results for SARS-CoV-2 and had recovered.

“When I learned that my husband was in the intensive care unit, as a nurse, I knew he was in very critical and life-threatening condition. But the Vietnamese doctors are amazing, they have saved our lives.”

The couple left Việt Nam for England early on April 14 in a flight arranged by the British Government exclusively for British citizens.

The total amount of people who have been infected with the coronavirus remains at 265 cases, including 160 returned from abroad, making up 60.4 per cent of total, and 105 infected in the community, accounting for 39.6 per cent.

The total number of people who came or returned to Việt Nam from pandemic-affected countries and have been quarantined is 75,291. Of these, 713 are quarantined in hospitals, 15,564 are in quarantine centres and 59,014 at their homes. — VNS



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10 States ― Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam
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