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Australia Hosts Apec Pandemic Influenza Exercise

Background Brief


Australia Hosts Apec Pandemic Influenza Exercise

All 21 member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) will take part in a major exercise on 7 June 2006 to test and strengthen regional communication networks in the event of an influenza pandemic.

Australia is coordinating the desk-top simulation exercise, with Singapore
as co-facilitator.

Eight APEC member economies have elected to be ‘primary’ participants – Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Viet Nam. The others members of APEC* will participate as secondary players.

[* They are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.]

The APEC Pandemic Response Exercise was endorsed at the annual Leaders’ Meeting in Busan in November 2005 as part of the APEC Initiative on Preparing for and Mitigating an Influenza Pandemic. The initiative committed APEC economies to maintaining effective surveillance, transparency and openness, as well as close coordination and collaboration.

The exercise scenario envisages human-to-human transmission of an influenza virus that has mutated from avian influenza, escalating to pandemic level.

Key objectives

The main objectives of the exercise are to test emergency responses and communication channels among APEC member economies, in particular their effectiveness in:

 sharing information and providing regional assistance

 providing advice to bordering economies and other regional partners.

At the end of the exercise, detailed debriefs and evaluations will be conducted covering lessons learned, recommendations for improvement and possible next steps.

A draft exercise report will be circulated to exercise participants for comment and will also be provided to the APEC Senior Officials Meeting in September. An Outcomes
Report will be launched at the APEC Ministerial Meeting in November 2006.

A number of international organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) will observe the exercise and participate in a debriefing session to be arranged by Singapore in August.

Other non-APEC countries in the Asia Pacific region which do not participate in the exercise will have access to the outcomes of the exercise report and will also be able to participate in the Singapore workshop.

Role of the Australian Coordination Centre

The Australian agencies coordinating the exercise are the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Emergency Management Australia (EMA), a division of the federal Department of the Attorney General. [In addition to coordinating and funding the exercise, Australia will be one of the 13 secondary players.]

The exercise will be facilitated by an Exercise Coordination Centre (ECC) to be established at EMA’s headquarters in Canberra. The exercise will take place in an operational environment and participants will be required to make decisions based on the exercise scenario and other input provided progressively by the ECC and ensure that these decisions and other relevant exercise developments are communicated to the coordination centre.

Exercise participants in all economies will work from their designated operations centres or their normal work areas - whichever location they would use in the event of a real pandemic event. Because APEC member economies are spread across a number of different time zones, the ECC will remain fully operational across all time zones, until all participants have completed their part in the exercise.

In addition to providing participants with the exercise scenario and other inputs, the ECC will act as a central relay point for all messages that would normally go through government channels in the event of a real pandemic. This will facilitate contact among exercise participants over a range of time zones and provide an overview of the effectiveness of regional communications networks.

The exercise will confirm a list of principal authorities responsible for disaster response in each APEC economy, to ensure that timely and effective communication channels are established and key information is shared.


Focus is regional, not domestic

The exercise will not involve domestic decision-making on the detail of disease control such as vaccine distribution, deployment of experts and repatriation of citizens from other countries, as these are matters which can be best tested through internal domestic exercises.

Australia and APEC
Australia was closely involved in the establishment of APEC in 1989 and regards it as a key regional forum which promotes economic growth and prosperity in the region and strengthens the Asia Pacific community.
In a statement in November 2005, the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr John Howard, said Australia had played a leading role in developing a coordinated regional response to avian and pandemic influenza. He noted that in recognition of the threat, APEC leaders had made an unequivocal commitment to transparency and regional cooperation to prepare for a possible influenza pandemic.
Mr Howard announced that Australia would provide an additional $100 million over four years for initiatives to combat the threat of pandemics and other emerging infectious diseases within the region, including $10 million for specific APEC activities on avian influenza. Of this, $4 million would be allocated to funding the APEC Pandemic Response Exercise and the development of a register of experts who have specialist skills in human/animal health and disaster response from across the APEC region.
The Australian Government is to host the APEC forum in 2007.

ENDS

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