JAKARTA, Indonesia

Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to hold their annual summit virtually, as the novel coronavirus pandemic in the region is far from over, an official on Friday.

Jose Tavarez, director-general of ASEAN cooperation under Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said the 36th ASEAN Summit, which was supposed to be held in Vietnam on June 27-28, was canceled and will be switched to a virtual summit on June 26.

“As member countries are still struggling in the battle against COVID-19, virtual meeting is the right format for now,” Tavarez told Anadolu Agency.

He added that safety concerns of the state leaders and their heavy workloads during pandemic were taken into consideration while deciding on the summit.

The death toll from the coronavirus in the Southeast Asia region climbed to 3,245, while the total number of cases reached 111,218, with 55,152 recoveries, according to a tally by World Health Organization.

Singapore remains the country with the highest infections in Southeast Asia with 39,387 cases and 25 fatalities.

Indonesia is the second worst-hit country in the region with 35,295 cases, but it has the highest death rate from the virus with 2,000 fatalities.

The Philippines has reported 24,175 cases and 1,036 deaths, while Malaysia has registered 8,369 cases and 118 fatalities.

The 11-member association was established on Aug. 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia joined in later years.

*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta.

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