SCO considers rapid response measures to infectious disease outbreaks

BEIJING, 11 March (TASS) — SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was analysing several proposals on rapid response measures to infectious disease outbreaks in the context of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

"As of now, the virus has directly affected several SCO member states, that is, not only China but also Russia, India and Pakistan. We are seriously concerned about the speed with which the virus is spreading in Iran, which is a SCO observer state," Vladimir Norov told TASS on March 11.

The Secretary-General pointed out that the SCO countries "are supporting each other in this hour of common trouble, sharing experience, methods and views on combating this novel disease." The leaders of the SCO countries expressed solidarity with the Chinese people and dispatched assistance to them, namely medicine, equipment and protective gear, as well as medical professionals, such as Russian virology experts. Vladimir Norov said that such combined efforts would definitely accelerate the efforts to create a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

He recalled that in June 2018 the heads of the SCO countries adopted a Statement on Joint Efforts against the Threat of Epidemics in the SCO Space. "We believe that the provisions of this statement are universally important, in particular, the provisions on exchanging reliable information about infectious diseases in the SCO space and response measures, as well as on enhancing the potential of the systems created to prevent emergencies," the Secretary-General pointed out.

The rapid response system

Based on the analysis of the current situation, the SCO Secretariat has formulated several proposals and sent them to the related agencies of the SCO member states. They provide for creating a multilateral information system in the event of a dangerous infectious disease that can potentially grow into an epidemic.

Vladimir Norov noted that healthcare cooperation had become more important than ever before in the light of the continuing spread of the epidemic around the world and the emergence of new infections and pathogens, as well as because old diseases had proliferated to new territories, for various reasons, and their epidemiological characteristics were changing.

He added that over the past years the SCO countries had contributed to the international efforts against the outbreaks of the Ebola and Zika viruses, plus other diseases, including those that are infectious. He noted that the coronavirus epidemic had shown that any infectious disease could grow into a global threat within days. The SCO has a number of cooperation mechanisms established to

fight such challenges. The SCO Secretary-General also recalled that the SCO countries had agreed at a conference held in Moscow on 16 December 2019 to "regularly hold exercises to identify and learn to respond to sanitary and epidemiological emergencies, including by using mobile laboratories."

"In a nutshell, we are making full use of the existing SCO cooperation mechanisms created to prevent and clamp down on diseases. They can be used very effectively to fight the threats and challenges to public health," Vladimir Norov concluded.