Prime Minister Hun Sen officially declared that the “November 28 community incident” – a reference to the first confirmed case of Covid-19 local transmission – was now over as the situation had been brought under control.
Hun Sen made the announcement as he addressed the nation from his residence in Kandal province’s Takhmao town on December 29.
“I am pleased to announce that the November 28 community event has come to an end despite having made a prediction on December 15 that we might not be able to do so until early or mid-January for three reasons, primarily,” Hun Sen said.
There were 41 people infected with Covid-19 in relation to the November 28 community event. As of December 29, only three of them remained hospitalised.
According to the prime minister, the first of the three reasons that had led to this decision was the fact that there had been no new Covid-19 patients found over the past 14 days despite an active government testing effort aimed at identifying any new cases.
His second reason involved the recent return of Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand. Somewhat defying expectations, testing had found zero new Covid-19 cases among the returning workers.
The third reason, Hun Sen said, is that Cambodia has been very successful at detecting incoming cases among those arriving by air every day and then safely managing their quarantine and recovery with zero deaths from the disease to date.
Hun Sen also noted that while actively monitoring outbreaks in other countries, Cambodia does not prohibit inbound travellers from other countries including Britain, where a new mutation that renders the virus more transmissible has been detected.
“Throughout the ‘November 28 community event’, we have been waging war against the virus on three different fronts, namely local transmission and imported cases, but the third battlefield has been in the hospitals.
“[Hospitals] where our doctors and nurses have fought tirelessly to cure the 360 Covid-19 patients successfully so far and where they continue to bravely fight to cure the four patients who are still undergoing treatment,” he explained.
Hun Sen also cautioned that although the November 28 community event has now ended, that does not mean that Covid-19 itself is finished.
He warned the nation that the worst outcome at this time would be for Cambodia to be neglectful in following safety precautions because if the nation lets its guard down the virus will find a way to infect the community once again.
The prime minister reiterated the “three do’s and three dont’s” of the pandemic and emphasised the importance of social distancing when gathering together in a group for any reason.
On the topic of vaccination, Hun Sen stated that as of December 28 the government had collected over $55 million in donations from the public with large donations coming from the King, the Queen Mother and a number of other generous people.
Hun Sen stressed that Cambodia’s principle objective is to provide free vaccination for all citizens. The injection will be voluntary, however.
“If there are those who aren’t confident [in the vaccine’s safety] then they don’t need to get an injection,” he said.
Hun Sen explained that there were three gateways for purchasing vaccines, with the first being COVAX, a World Health Organisation (WHO)-sponsored effort with 92 member countries working together to ensure wide access to vaccines as they become available. COVAX will provide 20 per cent of Cambodia’s population, or 3.2 million people, with the vaccine while covering 95 per cent of the total costs.
Hun Sen tempered this good news with the reminder that Cambodia will need to vaccinate more than 80 per cent of the population to achieve herd immunity, which amounts to roughly 13 million people and thus many more doses of the vaccine will need to be acquired somehow.
One route, he continued, was the second gateway – via country to country relationships, meaning bilateral or multilateral agreements that would make vaccines available at an affordable price for developing nations.
And finally, there was a third gateway for obtaining the necessary vaccine supply, consisting of direct negotiations with vaccine companies themselves.
Hun Sen said it was possible that all three gateways would end up being used in order to obtain the 13 million vaccine doses Cambodia required.
“This number [13 million] is huge but it absolutely must be done because we cannot leave our people without any protection.
“The problem right now is that there isn’t any vaccine that has been officially declared to be safe and effective by the WHO as yet. We will only buy vaccines that are recognised by the WHO, regardless of the source country,” he stipulated.
Hun Sen also warned that his commentary on vaccines should not be taken out of context or misconstrued to give offense to any foreign nation by stating that he was not rejecting the Chinese or Russian or British vaccines.
He stressed that Cambodia would gladly use any vaccine from any country as long as it was certified to be safe by the WHO beforehand.
Meanwhile, the prime minister announced that Cambodia is preparing to provide masks and medical equipment to aid Nepal in its fight against Covid-19 due to the high number of infections there and in the same spirit of friendship that inspired Cambodia to provide medical equipment previously to other fellow developing nations such as Laos, Myanmar and East Timor.
Hun Sen also took time to express his admiration for the health ministry, medical professionals, all service branches of the armed forces, local authorities in every province and the entire population of Cambodia for their concerted efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
He also thanked Cambodia’s international partner organisations, including the WHO, the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the expertise and assistance they had provided that had contributed to rapidly ending the November 28 community event and in the fight against Covid-19 in Cambodia generally.