Asia-Pacific countries have managed the pandemic crisis relatively well but major hardships remain in low- and middle-income countries, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said on Friday.

In its Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2020 report, the global body said Australia, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand did better than most countries in containing the first wave of the virus.

Thanks to effective testing, tracing and isolation systems, as well as trust and compliance with social distancing, these countries successfully contain the virus and limit deaths, it added.

The others such as Vietnam and Thailand also showed the value of a proactive response to the virus, it added.

Until vaccines are widely available, countries should address risk factors, create adaptable surge capacity, strengthen the health workforce, and exploit opportunities offered by digital health technologies.

“Many low- and middle-income Asian economies needed to spend more on health even prior to the crisis,” the report underlined.

“It is critical to ensure that economic pressures – either during or after the pandemic has ended – do not divert already limited resources away from essential health services.”

It is stated these countries have limited capacity and depend heavily on household out-of-pocket spending, the significant cost of the COVID-19 response may not be fully within their financial capacity.

The share of public spending in total health spending increased – on average – in all Asia-Pacific country income groups from 2010 to 2017.

Yet this figure is much lower in lower-middle and low-income Asia-Pacific countries compared to upper-middle and high-income countries: 41.9% compared to 59.8% and 72.7%, respectively.​​​​​​​

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