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ASEAN urged to bolster cooperation in COVID-19 vaccination, mental health

Brunei's Second Foreign Minister Erywan Mohd Yusof called on all ASEAN members to step up cooperation in the vaccination drive against COVID-19, and in addressing mental health issues, reported the Bernama news agency. 

He made the call during his special address at the 2021 ASEAN Leadership and Partnership Forum held virtually on October 7,  themed “Rebuilding ASEAN Towards Sustainable Recovery”.

Erywan, who is also ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar, said this will contribute to looking towards community-building measures to ensure that the welfare of ASEAN people is protected, both physically and mentally.

While it is reassuring to see many countries in the region embarking on extensive programmes to vaccinate their population, there were many who have yet to reap the same benefits.

Hence, accelerating the efforts to ensure equitable access to safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for all in a timely manner is crucial, he said.

He reiterated that vaccination is a gateway to being able to open up the economies and connect the region by facilitating to the best extent possible essential movement of people, including business travel and tourism.

What is less visible, however, but equally as important is the fact that the pandemic has affected the mental health and well-being of adults, youth, and children alike, he pointed out.

The Brunei minister called for early actions to address this issue as the region may see a mental health crisis that is far bigger than this pandemic in 10 to 15 years.

Therefore, ASEAN looks forward to the adoption of the East Asia Summit (EAS) leaders statement on mental health cooperation at the upcoming EAS, Erywan underlined, adding that ensuring the health and well-being of the people is essential in determining the path to a sustainable economic recovery./.