Russia resumes health ministers’ meetings during its chairmanship

The third SCO Health Ministers’ Meeting was held on 24 July 2020 within the framework of Russia’s SCO Chairmanship. Russian Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko chaired the event, which was held via videoconference and was attended by the health ministers of the SCO member states (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) and observer countries (Afghanistan, Belarus and Iran), as well as Special Representative of the Russian President on SCO Affairs Bakhtiyar Khakimov, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov (video address) and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge.

The health minister discussed the lessons of COVID-19 and methods to protect public health in the SCO member states, as well as their countries’ best practices in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus infection.

Mikhail Murashko said in his opening remarks that for many years the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation had been a reliable platform for the joint search for effective solutions to global and regional problems.

“We have met today to discuss the main achievements of our countries’ efforts against the epidemic of novel coronavirus pneumonia and our views on what should be done in this sphere,” Mr Murashko pointed out.

He reported on the dynamic of the spread of COVID-19 in Russia and the effectiveness of sanitary measures taken against the epidemic.

“A streamlined system of measures to identify coronavirus cases helped us to prevent an explosive outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic in Russia. We acted proactively, based not only on the research and recommendations of Russian specialists, but also on global experience. Our main objective was to save Russian lives. The death rate was 1.62 percent, one of the lowest in the world, but every life matters, which is why our health specialists have been working around the clock to save as many lives as possible,” the Russian health minister said.

Mikhail Murashko noted that the situation in Russia was pharmaceutically managed “with a focus on preventive measures,” adding that several vaccines have been created rather quickly and are at different stages of clinical trials. He pointed out that Russian specialists were working on the eighth version of methodological recommendations for the prevention of the coronavirus infection.

The participants discussed joint measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, shared their countries’ experience of COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment and prevention, and also considered the possibility of interaction between the SCO member states to prevent, identify and respond to epidemiological threats.

The Russian side submitted a combined survey of best practices in the SCO member states to counter the spread of COVID-19. The participants agreed that this document would be much in demand within the SCO and at other international platforms.

In their final statement, the health ministers called, in particular, for the further development of cooperation and joint efforts to strengthen public safety, health and welfare in the SCO countries.

It was the first SCO Healthcare Ministers’ Conference to be held in the past five years. The previous meeting of health ministers and experts took place during Russia’s previous chairmanship of the organisation in 2015.