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APEC Launches Bird Flu Exercise

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) launched a bird flu exercise Tuesday in which all 21-member economies// will test their emergency communication and response to a human influenza pandemic.

Senior officials from around the region will make real-time decisions based on a hypothetical scenario in the "APEC Pandemic Response Exercise 2006".

"This is the first exercise in a series that will prepare the emergency management sector for a large-scale medical emergency," said Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

Large screens, maps and TV monitors feature the exercise headquarters set up at the National Emergency Management Coordination Centre.

The desk-top simulation exercise is a key initiative under the APEC Action Agenda endorsed by the APEC leaders in Busan, South Korea last November.

The scenario script envisages an outbreak of H5N1 influenza that starts from a fisherman's family and over a 28-day period assumes human pandemic proportions.

The exercise will test vital linkages between the APEC economies to ensure communication channels are effective, Ruddock told a group of diplomats at a launch briefing.

Participants will be particularly assessed in sharing information, providing regional assistance, and giving advice to bordering economies and other regional partners.

Among the 21 members of APEC, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Vietnam were elected primary participants in the exercise. Other members will be secondary participants.

The APEC members account for 47 percent of all world trade and have a total of 2.6 billion people. A number of them have been hit by human deaths and economic losses from bird flu.

At the end of the exercise, experts will give evaluations and summarise lessons as well as provide advice for improvement. Singapore, a co-facilitator of the exerci se, will host a "Lessons Learned" workshop of participants and observers in August.

A final report will be launched at the APEC Ministerial Meeting in November. Other non-APEC countries or regions in Asia and Pacific may share the outcomes of the exercise report.

(Source: IANS)

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