China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) kicked off a Special Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Coronavirus Disease on Thursday to discuss coordinating efforts in fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak.

During a joint session, Ministers said, “The meeting started with a rallying cry of “Stay strong, Wuhan! Stay strong, China! Stay strong, ASEAN!”

The meeting, co-chaired by Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, was also being attended ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi.

The Foreign Ministers of China and ASEAN will exchange views and explore ways and means of cooperation in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak at the session meeting.

The meeting itself also demonstrates China and ASEAN’s solidarity and determination to jointly battle the outbreak.

Hong Kong has confirmed the virus in 62 patients, two of whom have died. The first infections were largely found within people who had travelled to the epicentre in China’s central Hubei province.

In mainland China, where the virus first emerged, more than 2,118 people have been killed and 74,576 infected.

The commission added that 4,922 people were still suspected of being infected with the virus.

The Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam have restricted flights from the mainland and suspended visa-free arrivals as health screening ramps up at entry points.

Thailand, which has imposed no such restrictions, reported a 90 per cent slump in arrivals from the mainland this month, a gut punch to an already beleaguered tourist sector which makes up nearly a fifth of the economy.

In 2003, 299 Hong Kongers were killed by an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) — 40 per cent of the global total fatalities.

Meanwhile, the director of a hospital in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, is among those who died on Tuesday. Zhiming, a neurosurgeon, is the first hospital head to die of the Coronavirus infection.

Authorities have placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei under an unprecedented lockdown. Other cities far from the epicentre have restricted the movements of residents, while Beijing ordered people arriving in the capital to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.

The novel Coronavirus outbreak has caused alarm as it has crossed global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.

(With inputs from agency)