KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today called on vaccines producing economies to avoid vaccine stockpiling and share the vaccines with economies-in-need as negotiations are consuming precious time.
He said vaccine nationalism and vaccine stockpiling are counter-productive in the effort to increase the global vaccination rate and clear the path for recovery across economies.
At the same time, he urged Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) economies to strengthen collaboration towards equitable, affordable and accessible Covid-19 vaccines for all.
“We have seen that there is a correlation between the success of vaccination programme or increased rate of inoculation and ability to speed up the economic recovery process.
“With the spread of highly transmissible new variants, Covid-19 vaccine is the lifeline for our people,” he said in his intervention during Apec Informal Leaders’ Retreat, which was held virtually today.
Thus, he said the inter-governmental economies must ensure that the stark global vaccination gap is not a hurdle in the effort to achieve herd immunity, and act sensibly to ensure that no economy, is left at the end of the Covid-19 vaccine line.
“In this spirit, while underscoring the importance of preserving incentives for innovations, Malaysia supports global initiatives to boost global vaccine capacities, including through negotiation at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
“This is a step in the right direction because extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures,” he said.
Muhyiddin said while it is comforting to witness the return to a certain level of normalcy in some economies, many other economies are still grappling to regain economic stability.
“This divergent fate is a cause for concern. The reality is that, in a globalised world, we all are interdependent and interconnected and this necessitates us to take immediate and steadfast actions collectively,” he said.
In his note, Muhyiddin also said the pandemic has greatly impacted the people-to-people connectivity including cross-border travel, which is now regarded as a high-risk activity.
“Some may say that it is the crux of the problem. Reopening our borders during this era of pandemic is precarious, as it requires extremely careful planning and high level of confidence from all parties,” he said.
He, however, applauded Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the country for organising the biggest sports event, the Olympic Games 2020 which will convene next week.
Muhyiddin said this is a testament on how cross border travels can be carried out, under stringent measures and controlled environment.
He added thus herein lies the opportunity for Apec to find a middle ground in reviving the tourism industry and people-to-people connectivity in the region in a safe and trusted environment.
“I call for Apec economies to discuss potential regulatory coherence on establishment of travel bubbles and quarantine arrangements, or mutual recognition of vaccination certification documents, without undermining the global requirements set by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
“When the time is right, all these practical solutions would be the answer in facilitating seamless people-to-people connectivity in the region,” he said.
He said all must accept the fact that the once vibrant tourism industry which had been the catalyst and multiplier to other businesses, especially the small ones, is being hit badly by the pandemic.
In closing the note, Muhyiddin said he is hopeful and optimistic that the important deliberation and critical recommendations today will form the basis for future knowledge-sharing and capacity-building programmes in Apec.
“Some of these could also find its way to be included in the Implementation Plan of the Apec Putrajaya Vision 2040,” he said. — Bernama