Three Dos and Three Don’ts Measures Despites COVID-19 Vaccine
Good day to you all Ladies and Gentlemen, my compatriots. We have just completed the handover ceremony of SARS-Cov-2 Vaccine (Sinopharm) from the Government and People of the People’s Republic of China to the Government and People of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the first phase of the one million doses donated. We received 600,000 doses for 300,000 people. The key point I outlined in my speech is that one of the key strategies to manage and overcome COVID-19 is to vaccinate our people. We know for the fact that vaccines are not the only solution or measure. The measures that we have taken in the past have been the three things to do and the three things not to do that you already know. The three things to do is (1) wearing a mask, (2) washing or sanitizing hands, and (3) keeping a safe social distancing. As for the three things not to do is not to go to crowded places, not to go to closed areas and use only air conditioning, and not to shake hands.
As you can see in the ceremony, either Cambodia or China, we did not shake hands. Such a solution, however, is a transitional solution. Although this is a transitional solution, it is still a long-term solution. Despite the vaccination, we must continue to use these measures because we have seen there have been high number of infections in countries with high immunizations. In the world, Israel is the country that vaccinated the most people, but Israel still has COVID-19 infection. Therefore, we can draw a conclusion that even with effectiveness of the vaccine, it is necessary to use the preventive measures that in Cambodia we call them the three “Dos” and the three “Don’ts.”
Though with Money Cannot Buy Vaccine
Let us get back to this vaccine problem. I would tell you that now the world seems to be at war over vaccines, and especially in Europe. The problem is that so many people in the world are in need of vaccines, but the number of usable vaccines produced is less than they needed. I do not know if Europe has lifted the ban on the export of vaccines to outside of Europe. There are exceptions however for the provision of vaccines to COVAX. If the export of such vaccines is banned, it could become a case of dividing between the rich and the poor. This is a point that worries countries around the world, especially the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the World Health Organization. For us, poor country … we can afford it, but the issue here is even with money one cannot buy it (vaccine). (There have been many cases where) countries that have a lot of money cannot ensure purchase of vaccines. It is because of this, Europe has banned the export of vaccines. Europe is a rich country that can afford to buy vaccines, but the vaccines production is not coping up with growing demand.
Good Cambodian-Chinese Cooperation Yields One Million Doses of Vaccine Aid
For us, we are one of the few countries that has received the vaccines (by now). What is the reason? This is the fruit of cooperation between Cambodia and China. This point needs to be noted. If we did not have good cooperation between Cambodia and China, we would not have received the vaccine today for the Cambodian people. Do not forget that China has a population of 1.4 billion people and that the Chinese government is responsible for producing (the vaccines and vaccinating) its people. But the Chinese friend still shared with us in the first step that Samdech Pichey Sena Tea Banh, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense, sent a letter (request) to the Minister of Defense of China. Through the letter, the Chinese friend decided to give one million doses (of vaccine), and 600,000 doses of which we received today. I also sent a letter to Premier Li Keqiang requesting more on behalf of the Royal Government. We hope to get response step after step.
Some of the World’s Most Populous Countries Use Chinese Vaccine
Chinese vaccines are widely used and to date there are about 16 countries (used) Sinopharm vaccine, and they are not only in Asia. Now in ASEAN, there are three countries that have used the vaccine (and) the first is Singapore, which receives the vaccine from the United Kingdom, the second is Indonesia, using the Chinese vaccines, and the third is Cambodia. In addition, in the Middle East, in Latin America, including in Europe, although not a member of the European Union, such as Serbia has already used (the vaccines from China), and Turkey did too … Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, also used Chinese vaccines. Some big countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, etc., which are populous countries … (have used the China’s vaccine).
Urgent Jabs for Those Aged between 18 and 59 Years Old
As far as my vaccination is concerned, I was ready for the jab on the 10th (of February) which is on Wednesday (or) the next 3 days from today. The doctor (advised me) to fast on a few things before I could get the vaccine. In the Sinopharm vaccine presentation, it is true that it does not require pre-injection fasting, but to ensure my safety, the doctors who treat me personally, along with the technical staff of the Ministry of Health, suggested I refrain from dong/taking a few things such as some medications, seafood, and alcohol. I am not an alcohol drinker. Even for five years, I do not have a problem. I had been fasting for two days already.
However, we later received an official letter from the Office of the Economic and Commercial Consultation of the Chinese Embassy in the Kingdom of Cambodia stating that the vaccine was effective for people between the ages of 18 and 59. For those aged 60 and over, (concerned institutions) are still monitoring its effectiveness. Next, we also received a diplomatic note … confirming this as well. That is why my first vaccination plan was impossible. I am not afraid of reactions. I can have the jab should I wish. It would not be a matter because Samdech Pichey Sena Tea Banh has already had the jab. Right now, he stands strong here. The problem is that it is not clear how effective it is for people in their 60s. Therefore, the Ministry of Health has made some adjustments about the standard, and decided to put it into use as a matter of urgency for those between the ages of 18 and 59. Thus, all planning of injections, both military and civilian, is still ongoing for people under the age of 59 […]
Vaccine Reception Today, Pride of Being Partner of China
I should reiterate that without the strong ties between Cambodia and China, today we would not have had the vaccines for our people. That is the pride of Cambodia in being a partner of China. Although China is responsible for its more than 1.4 billion people and has obligations with other countries, China still shares one million doses with us. It is the first one million doses that we wanted. You may remember that I once announced that Cambodia needed the first one million doses for the first 500,000 frontline people to inject. Now we have the one million doses as requested, and today we received 600,000 doses of them. After the 600,000 doses used, another 400,000 doses will come. I believe that not only 400,000 doses will come, but more than this, in my opinion.
This is what I want to emphasize. I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, as well as His Excellency the Minister of Defense of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army of China for this valuable contribution to our military and front line teams […]. Let me reaffirm (that it was such good) cooperation which provides such benefits for us. No matter who says what, most importantly, I serve the Cambodian people and our friend China helped the Royal Government of Cambodia, led by me, as well as under the leadership of our King, have a vaccine to protect the Cambodian people to overcome this COVID-19.
… I do not speak anymore. All I have to do is give you the opportunity to ask me some questions so that I can answer them. We have not seen each other for almost a year since my last press conference. I was preparing for the press conference on Wednesday, (February) 10 indeed, but we missed it. In this regard, we need to take this opportunity to talk here. Please ask your questions.
(1) […] Apart from Chinese aid, where else will the Royal Government seek the vaccine? How many million people are to receive the jabs? Is there a variation in the number of vaccine recipients […]?
(2) […] So far, how has India responded (to the request for vaccine?) and if India will provide, how much would it be? […]
Answer: Thank you, the young lady from BTV … (you) probably did a close follow-up to what I said on December 15. I said (we needed to inoculate some) 80% (of our population or up) to 13 million people. I should clarify this a bit. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80% of inoculation would be necessary to achieve herd immunity. If we vaccinate 80% of the population, we will need (to do so up to) 13 million people, equivalent to 26 million doses of vaccine. Later (there has been a recalculation) that (the number of inoculation) can be reduced to between 60% and 70%. That is why we set out the initiative to strive for a vaccine for 10 million people, equivalent to 20 million doses. Please take not that I still maintain my desire to acquire vaccines for 13 million people. That is the ambition (I have) … (to achieve) the herd immunity among our people.
We now see clearly that it is difficult to get vaccines for poor countries, even those with money cannot ensure its purchase. This is our concern. This is an assertion as to why we have reduced (inoculation percentage) from 13 million to 10 million. This is an arrangement by the COVID-19 Vaccines Commission, which is in regular consultation with the World Health Organization, who has instructed the number of injections to 80% population to achieve immunity […]. I do want to reemphasize that I still want to inject 80% of our population, unless it is determined that people under the age of 18 cannot get the jabs, which would make the number adjusts accordingly. If the injection reaches 80%, it will cover perhaps those in their 15, 16, and 17 years of age. If it is determined that people under the age of 18 cannot get the jabs, the number will be lower.
This is an ambition for our people to have a protection, whether old or young, rich or poor, and for the poor, we pay more attention counting in workers collecting garbage in the city, the motodup (motor taxi) drivers, the taxi drivers, the bus drivers who interacts with so many people every day.
… BTV asked where the vaccine would come from. According to my anticipation and the issuance of instructions I already did, now the clear source we have received is China, which is still a strategic source. I use this word because China has the capacity to produce. Although Sinopharm and Sinovac are now available, China has the ability to produce vaccines under the licenses of some countries. China is still the safest and most stable source of supply for us. This is the first thing we know and we have already received. Shipping is also easy. Transport in temperatures from 2 degrees to 8 degrees is easy. For the moment, as you can see, we are in a hurry (to send the vaccines brought her for symbolic ceremony) to put it back in a cool place. Well (the vaccine needs to be stored at) only 2 degrees to 8 degrees above zero. What if it demanded to be stored at 20 degrees or 70 degrees below zero, can Cambodia use it? Even if they give it free of charge, we would not accept it because the vaccines would not survive Cambodia’s hot temperature.
I would also like to mention the source from where we find (vaccines, and one of them is) from COVAX, who promises to provide (vaccines for) 20% of the population. If 20% of the population is equal to 3.5 million people, we will get seven million doses. This is the source from where we hope to get the vaccine. As far as we know, 200 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were given to COVAX. Nevertheless, COVAX, one of the World Health Organization’s institution, will provide us, albeit a little later, we will be able to get it. This is a gateway now. According to reports, we know that COVAX has the vaccines in hand now and will be distributing to the poorest countries in the world. As I mentioned in the session on the fight against COVID-19, we consider the vaccine a common commodity, not only for rich countries, but also for poor countries. In addition, we also have other sources of communication (on vaccines). Please note that the source from Australia is three million doses, for which they have already announced the amount of US$ 28 million. So from these three (sources) we have 11 million doses in the data, but we just have 600,000 doses in hand and just arrived in our country.
Well, if we needed 20 million doses, we still lack 9 million doses. If we need (to vaccinate) 13 million people, however, we still lack 14 million doses. So where do we target this 14 million dose? Let me now respond to you about the Indian vaccine here. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India asking for help in supplying the vaccine. The Indian friends also tried to share with us 100,000 doses, a form of supply by means of sales. I advised the Minister of Health and the vaccine procurement team to start negotiations with India. The 100,000 doses is a small amount for Cambodia’s need. Since India uses British technology to produce AstraZeneca vaccine, I have suggested negotiating with India to buy between one and four million doses from India. India is producing for consumption in India and distributing to Nepal, to Bhutan, to Bangladesh, to Myanmar. If we start ordering now, I think this Indian manufacturer can share it with us. The 100,000 doses that India wants to sell to us is too little for our needs of about 9 million doses or up to 14 million doses. That is why I have to negotiate, and it may be starting tomorrow with the Indian Ambassador in Phnom Penh on how to order the British license vaccine (made in India) …
Another way we can get the vaccine from is Thailand where, in May this year, they will release same AstraZeneca vaccine. We can also negotiate a purchase contract from now. This is another port for us. The vaccine is made in Thailand (a neighboring country) and the price of AstraZeneca is known to be around US$ 4. If we buy 10 million doses, we would not even use all the money contributed by philanthropists, which is some US$ 57 million […]
We also need to consider the Russian vaccine, which is currently being approved by European countries … I have discussed this with the Russian ambassador since last year that if Russia finds a vaccine, please share it with Cambodia. This morning, HE Aun Porn Moniroth (DPM and Minister of Economy and Finance) told me that there would be discussions with Russia. We will accept, not just any vaccine we can get, but the vaccines have to be in line with the reality of Cambodia. For example, the vaccine that survives at 20 degrees or 70 degrees below zero … would be difficult for Cambodia to use.
On this note, any vaccine that can be (stored and) that we can supply, we will not only ask for but also we buy. I would like to confirm I have been giving orders since last night. We do not ask for money to buy vaccines. There have been suggestions that if we lack money, we can borrow money to buy it. I do not think Cambodia has such a need. We can release philanthropy’s contribution fund and national budget to buy vaccines. I have one estimation left, though. That is the People’s Republic of China. Why? During the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit last October, China signed a grant somewhere between US$ 500 million and US$ 600 million. Well, we can use Chinese aid money to buy Chinese vaccines. If China sells at a reasonable price. For the purchase (of vaccine produced by license) of the UK from India, Thailand and from Russia (we) use cash only. We can afford to do that. Although some humiliated the Royal Government of Cambodia about (the possibility of having no money to pay) salary of civil servants, as civil servants you (know) that the salary is on a regular every two weeks’ basis and the private sector is not dead yet […]
Respectfully Samdech … in order to give confidence to the people and those who need to be vaccinated, can Samdech determine which dignitaries or sons of yours, who are all popular individuals in Cambodian society, lead the vaccination to increase confidence to those who need to be vaccinated?
Question 2: Please clarify a little bit about persons of priority, not because I am a journalist and I am asking this, but I want to refer to other media people since s/he has many contacts in society doing her/his reports. So can journalists be a priority to get this vaccine, Samdech?
Question 3: I would like Samdech to give more clarification. The Royal Government of Cambodia has been harassed by COVID-19 for more than a year now. Recently, Samdech announced the donation (of personal salary). This is a charitable gesture to solve difficulties. There is still however some criticisms. Probably not in response to the critics, but to confirm the trust of the people that as of this moment the Royal Government of Cambodia, under Samdech’s leadership, continues to stand strong and continue to move forward boldly to solve the national economic problem.
Answer: At the moment, I was about to say it, but (since) you asked about the issue of vaccination to journalists (let me) ask the Ministry of Health to consider this group of reporters (journalists) as vaccinated target because they search everywhere and not everyone knows what the risks are. I urge all journalists under the age of 59 to … register online and look at the 14 conditions for getting vaccination. Of those 14 conditions, only a few require pay much attention, because first, it is for people under 18, but all of you who would apply for the vaccines are the within the age range and over. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to inform the media and (I instruct) the Ministry of Information work on this with the Ministry of Health. I think if an institution of journalists like Fresh News, Bayon, Hang Meas, BTV, CNC, Apsara, National Television take the initiative with the Ministry of Health directly, maybe faster than with the Ministry of Information […]
The second point is both a question and a suggestion. (Although) I cannot get the jab, I agree to mobilize children of leaders and as I have three sons, two sons-in-law, if they are qualified for the jabs, let them have it. Some of our young ministers, such as Hang Chuon Naron, except for Aun Porn Moniroth because he had had a sickness and could not resist hair coloring substance because of allergies. Well, ministers under the age of 59, such as Hang Chuon Naron, Say Sam Al, Keut Rith, etc. Please reorganize and let Samdech Picheay Sena select some military leaders to get the jabs together at Calmette Hospital where we have prepared and broadcast live to show our responsibility. If the father does not get the jabs for age limit, why the children cannot? Tea Banh has a child as the provincial governor. He should come and get the jab. Gather children of leaders for the jabs. I agree. I will tell my children, but maybe they are watching too. The day before, Hun Many, my youngest son, asked to join me for the jab. At the time, Hun Manet was at the border … I agreed to have my three sons and the other two sons-in-law vaccinated. Let our ministers and military and police generals, who is under the age of 59 get the jabs. This shows our attention and care.
On issue that you talked about moving forward without fear of criticism. I have previously advised everyone in Cambodia to stop responding to a group of vicious people. I do not talk about them myself, because this group, no matter what we do, dogs are still dogs. Therefore, it is not necessary (to talk with them) and everyone must understand that when Hun Sen stop talking and instructs people under him to stop talking, it means that the door is closed. We do not have, for that matter, to worry about what they say. Our concern is the well-being of the 16 million Cambodians in the country. We must maintain peace, political stability, socio-economic development and poverty reduction. (They are just a) small number of unhappy people. Leave them be. In this world, there are happy and unhappy people. The key question is there are more people happy than are unhappy. In Cambodia, there are very few people in prison or have fled the country. That they are in grief, let them be because they created the matter. I do not need to answer this question. Do not respond, no matter what you say. All I am doing is buying the vaccine. They talk about the (Royal Government’s short of cash for) salary. In reality, we still have the salary. The matter rests on whether we actually have the money or not […]
So, all of you who support me, support the Royal Government, do not speak (to or) with a group of vicious men/dogs. The best thing to do is never mentioning them on TV or Facebook, but talking instead together on how to fight COVID-19, to prevent road accidents, socio-economic development, poverty reduction, state reforms against corruption, and other negative activities in society. They need to understand this point clearly. It means that once (I) stop talking, I mean I do not talk to that person. Even though … some may seek foreigners to intercede on their behalf for a negotiation with Hun Sen I will not respond. I do not have the need to talk to anyone about Cambodia or any individual. Let me confirm. Thank you. Please continue the question […]
My respect to you, Samdech Techo. I am a Chinese journalist in Cambodia. A moment ago, Ambassador Wang Wentian says that in the near future, the Chinese government will provide 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to developing countries. Today, the Chinese vaccine has arrived in Cambodia. On behalf of the Chinese people, I would like to ask Samdech Techo what evaluation you have on the Chinese vaccine, while the Chinese vaccine (is) widely acceptable in the world?
My second question is Since COVID-19 has become a new normal in the world, and I think that while the resistance to COVID-19 has improved in Cambodia as well as in China, what concrete measures the Cambodian government will take accordingly to open or adjust policy for the Chinese investors and tourists to Cambodia?
Answer: Thank you for this question. I still remember that during our meeting, even though I did not meet in person at that time as I was in quarantine, and HE Aun Porn Moniroth was representing me in the framework of ASEAN and partners’ summits, including the ASEAN-China meeting. Chinese Premier His Excellency Li Keqiang announced the provision of vaccine assistance for developing countries, including the ASEAN region. In fact, some countries are now receiving vaccination assistance from China, and this is an important stage for China to fulfill its promise while it has a responsibility for its own population, which is about 20% of the world population. I consider this a responsible gesture as a country that has the capacity to produce (vaccines) and play a responsible role in this global framework. This is a fact where Cambodia received 600,000 doses (of vaccine) today. It symbolizes sympathy and commitment of the Chinese Premier to developing countries.
Second, Cambodia has the COVID-19 under control and China does too. In the past, we have partially coordinated our actions (on combating COVID-19). I am also trying to find a way to reach an agreement where we can coordinate to and from contacts in some way. This issue requires serious discussion. For example, when Cambodians go to China, do we have to continue put them in the 14-days quarantine and when the Chinese come to Cambodia, do we continue to do the 14-days quarantine too or we have to reduce it? All of these points have become sensitive topics and we needed to address them properly.
Now Cambodia is under pressure through which we have learnt that we cannot let go some of the points. The pressure that Cambodia has been receiving in the last month is from the west, the rapid community-to-community transmission in Thailand. Before, the outbreak in the Thai community recorded between 6,000 and 7,000 infected people. Today’s figure seemed to have recorded at 23,000. On the eastern side, Vietnam is recording a rapid transmission and is reportedly to have infected with the new COVID-19 variant that has spread to a province bordering Cambodia, Ratanakkiri. That is why I have to declare an emergency so that there will be no crossing in the upcoming Vietnamese New Year period.
However, for the second day in a row, Thailand’s infection figures declined. Today I see that the number of infections in Thailand has dropped from 900 or 800 to over 200. In Vietnam, there were dozens (but) there were five yesterday, and today there are only four. If this situation alleviates, it will be a relief to Cambodia. One of the difficulties Cambodia faces is to resist on one side at this airport (in Phnom Penh) and those that landed at the airport in Sihanoukville. This morning two infected persons found after they passed through. I would like to inform that workers arriving at the border (from Thailand) has reached a total number of 24,000, out of which, over 9,000 are in quarantines at the border.
I would like to emphasize that the Cambodian experience (required that we) should not exempt the 14-days quarantine or reduce it to 7 or 10 days because we have found that some are positive on their second or third test on 13th day of quarantine already. At this point, Cambodia has a lot of experience. As far as I know and I am not giving them any advice, Malaysia, which reduced its quarantine period from 14 days to 7 days, has just put the country in a state of emergency. We have also found here that we found people COVID-19 positive on the 13th day of quarantine. S/he was ready to leave on the 14th day.
Based on this fact, regardless of the compromise between Cambodia and China, there must be some health measures, because in this case, we need to make sure that the disease is not brought from Cambodia to China and not from China to Cambodia. In reality, however, people have traveled to each other (already). Remarkably, more Chinese traveled by plane to Cambodia through the Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville airports than others foreigners. No Chinese have come with infection, except in the case of January 2020, which occurred in Sihanoukville. Next is another case of a Chinese citizen, but (he did not travel) from China. (He came) from the Philippines. My guess is that these non-infected travelers may have their jabs before coming. This gives Cambodia more confidence. This is where I say soon everyone will need to get vaccinated as they once did in Africa in the past, when anyone have not been vaccinated against yellow fever are not allowed to enter African countries.
At a later stage, the journalists should have their vaccination record ready for their reportage trips could bring them to places where a certification of vaccination (against COVID-19) is a requirement. Well, HE Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health, can take care of this matter and vaccinate them, lest s/he reached the place where a vaccination is a precondition. We have printed vaccination cards, which would list information of type of vaccine given, what day the first bottle is given, and how many days from there the second bottle is given. Certificates are in Khmer and English for both domestic and international uses […]
I should stop here and thank you for allowing me to answer these questions, and I have taken my liberty to give concluding answers to such question about responding to so and so […] I beg you the radio, TV or any online media, such as Facebook, if you can, please avoid talking with anyone (unworthy). Concentrate on doing things that are beneficial to the society, rather than engaging in war of words. Doing like that would be peaceful. My mother told me that if they insulted us, we could still fall asleep, but if we insulted them, we could not sleep. That is true. I used to go through the war of words, but in the end, it did not work. Now I take a strategy of not responding. Non-compliance means a lot. Please wait to see how the no-response drama works. Do not allow us to be shameful that people insulting each other. Now let them insult us. Foreigners may (understand that) because their way of insulting that the other side stop talking to. Just stay wherever s/he is. That is all. Thank you. Let us end the conference here./.