On 19 March 2021, RSIS held a virtual roundtable titled “COVID-19 in Asia: Reflections One Year On”. Chaired by Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony, Head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, the roundtable brought together several distinguished speakers: Dr Jemilah Mahmood, Special Adviser to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Dr Ferdinal Moreno Fernando, Head of the Health Division of the Human Development Directorate at ASEAN, Professor Huang Yanzhong, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mr Endy M. Bayuni, Senior Editor and Adviser to the Board of Directors of The Jakarta Post.
The speakers addressed the many challenges remaining for the Asia-Pacific and the wider global community to deal with. These included the rising levels of pandemic fatigue among people subjected to social distancing measures and lockdowns/circuit breakers, the rising economic and social cost of the pandemic, access to vaccines amid vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy, as well as the level of regional cooperation between ASEAN and its external partners.
The discussion concluded with a lively Q&A session with the 55 participants in attendance. Issues raised included the tension between political will and health security where cross-border travel was concerned, the lack of institutional memory carried over from previous pandemics in the region and the potential long-term human rights issues that are likely to arise from the various pandemic response measures.