Asia-Pacific ministers vow to boost health cooperation amid pandemic

Kyodo News

Posted at Sep 18 2020 01:06 AM

TOKYO - Finance and health ministers from member countries of the Asian Development Bank on Thursday agreed to boost cooperation toward making health care systems accessible to anyone in developing countries, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Noting the importance of universal health coverage, over 40 ministers and deputy ministers from the Asia-Pacific region confirmed the need for "stronger collaboration" during an online symposium held as part of the second stage of ADB's annual meeting, according to the bank.

In a video message to the symposium, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso expressed hope that the ADB would "uncover the assistance needs of the region" and play a "leading role" in promoting universal health coverage.

The event was co-sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Japanese government on the first day of the two-day online meeting of the Manila-based bank, owned by 68 member economies.

The ADB had planned to hold its annual meeting in Incheon, South Korea in May. But the pandemic forced it to conduct the meeting online in two stages in May and September.

The ADB also said donor countries decided to replenish its Asian Development Fund, which provides concessional loans and grants to developing countries, with more than $4 billion.

Aside from the contribution to the fund, the ADB has already decided to provide $20 billion, including concessional and grant resources, to help its developing members affected by the pandemic.

As in other parts of the world, social and economic activities across Asia have been restricted by measures to curb the spread of the virus, such as lockdowns and bans on international travel, which have dealt heavy blows to the global economy.

Gross domestic product in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to contract 0.7 percent in 2020, the first negative growth since 1962 when it shrank 0.1 percent, according to the ADB.