Asean’s collective acceptance of vaccine certs the ‘right move’

PETALING JAYA: Businesses and health groups have lauded the mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates among Asean countries, saying it was the right move to provide seamless travel and boost economic recovery.

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) deputy president Datuk Ng Yih Pyng said the recognition was “timely”, especially with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement having come into force in Malaysia in March.

“The mutual recognition of each other’s vaccination passports will benefit business travellers and tourists, helping businesses and tourism, especially now that we are transitioning to the endemic phase,” he said on Monday.

Last Sunday, the Asean Health Ministers agreed on the Mutual Recognition of Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates to ensure smooth and safe cross-border travel.

Deputy Health Minister II Datuk Aaron Ago Anak Dagang said the matter was agreed upon in a special discussion session of the 15th Asean Health Ministers’ Meeting (AHMM) held in Bali last Saturday.

He said the recognition would be implemented using the Asean Universal Verification Mechanism or other mechanisms developed based on the technical specifications of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

While not all countries have an established vaccination certificate verification system, Ng said the recognition would provide the needed support for travellers.

“Any form of non-recognition of our vaccine certificate can be detrimental and costly when we travel. After two years of lockdown, it’s about time that businessmen go out and explore business opportunities, be it looking for prospects or products.

“With this recognition and following the RCEP’s implementation, this will help businesses recover faster,” he said, adding that RCEP is about regional trade and investment where travel is needed.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) brings together 10 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The RCEP is a free-trade agreement between the 10 Asean countries, plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.Malaysian Association Of Tour And Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang lauded the move, saying a standardised vaccine passport would boost intra-Asean travel.

“It is crucial to recognise vaccination certificates to support the reopening of safe travel, and a well-coordinated approach would help avoid unnecessary stress and confusion for travellers.

“It’s good for all Asean governments to recognise each other’s certification. We don’t have to worry if our MySejahtera will be recognised,” he said.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai also said it was timely to adopt mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccine certificates.

“This will significantly facilitate travel within Asean. Not only will it benefit familial ties but will allow a more rapid recovery of the economy in the region,” he said.

At the moment, Dr Koh noted that many countries are still placing great importance on the role of vaccines.

“With the advent of less severe Covid-19 infections due to the new variants, we may see a review of the role of vaccines and the drugs based on newer evidence as we move towards endemicity.

“This will allow better management of Covid-19 as it continues to exist in our midst,” he said.

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