Despite her limited resources, this Southeast Asian nation’s Royal Government and the people share the same strategic boat amid the global spread of Covid-19 since early this year. Cambodia, like other parts of the world, sought different approaches to fight the infectious disease while the government and world bodies joined hands with scientists to produce a Covid-19 vaccine.
Earlier, many had high hopes that once the Covid-19 vaccine is in place things will get back to normal like before the arrival of the disease, but things may not happen like the way we expected. Even with the availability of vaccines many are reluctant to be inoculated because they are unsure of the effectiveness of the vaccine.
In addition, much disinformation is being spread on social media by people and organizations whose agenda is to spread fear rather than knowledge.
Will it have any side effects? Will such vaccines suite everyone individually on this earth? I am not the expert but as a global citizen I have right to express my opinion. Will every government guarantee 100 per cent that Covid-19 vaccines will have no permanently bad effect? Will everyone show up voluntarily for inoculation? Such questions dangle before me personally.
No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, even the ones that eliminated smallpox and polio, nor is any medicine without side effects, even the most common. We must ensure that any risk from the vaccine is commensurate with the risk from the disease.
That is why I am happy and felt at ease when I heard, loud and clear, the impromptu comments of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia. He stated that, although the government has started initial talks with certain institutions for possible procurement of Covid-19, it will not purchase any Covid-19 vaccine whatsoever without the approval and recognition of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Premier’s statement clearly shows that money is one thing but much more important is the safety, the well-being of our people. Cambodian people survived the Cold War, the 30 years of civil war, especially the Khmer Rouge genocide which ruled from April 1975 to January 1979, and must now not only survive but live in full peace, dignity, and prosperity while maintaining its full sovereignty, independence and enjoying level playing fields.
Cambodia is a member of the COVAX center that is partially supporting WHO. COVAX will provide Cambodia with 20 per cent of the vaccines needed for the total population of 16 million. So, Cambodia will get inoculations for 3.2 million people, or 6.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
Any provision of the Covid-19 vaccine requires Cambodia to provide partial payment of 5 per cent. So far, no price has yet set.
Several countries are successfully developing vaccines, including China, Russia, the United States, the EU, and Britain. Some have been approved for use by their respective health authorities and are being deployed. WHO can recognise or recommend products but each country must decide its own strategy.
“We still do not know which country’s Covid-19 vaccine will be recognised until January 2021 maybe”, said the Premier.
Cambodia needs 1 million doses for 500,000 people. The government has already a priority list of those people, as many as 410,000, who will get inoculations first. They include waste collectors, religious leaders, taxi drivers, sport people, police, military, health experts, court officials, custom officials, lawyers, prison officials, forest administration, electricity, and provincial elections and local officials, education officials.
Some 80 per cent of the total population, or 12.8 million people, will eventually get inoculations. The government is ready to inject between $100 million to $200 million to cope with Covid-19, with additional support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) of $250 million, another $238 million from Japan, and $50 million from South Korea (the Republic of Korea). This means that the government has more than enough to deal with Covid-19 in general.
In a live broadcast on Dec. 15, 2020 on the state-run television channel, TVK, the Premier also made it clear that we can wait for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine until recognised by WHO.
This is another smart move in the sense that we have joint responsibility from the WHO in terms of healthy Covid-19 vaccines, no one can afford unexpected and unacceptable side effects from Covid-19 vaccine inoculation and at the same time we need to spend smart along with high quality for the benefit of our people. Joyful tears Cambodia’s people themselves also stand behind the Prime Minister: more than $48 million has been donated by more than 40,000 people who have had confidence in the Premier’s leadership since after the fall of Khmer Rouge in early January 1979.
His Majesty the King and the Queen-Mother also played key roles in such donations. Cambodia today is seen to be trying to stand on its own and to reduce reliance on key donations from overseas donors.
Such mass support from the locals from different walks of life make the Premier thrilled, and he at one point almost shed joyful tears because he saw the peoples’ responses are more than he expected. The poor came up with small donation of 20,000 riel (or $5) while the rich bring bags of dollars, as much as $3 million.
This is what we mean by living in a unified society of Cambodia: we share almost everything in common, along with social interactions and no one is immune from Covid-19 because such an infectious virus can jump on anyone regardless of their social status and background.
Prime Minister’s leadership is showing everyone that no-one can defeat Covid-19 alone but all must share strong commitment, political decisions, resources and effective implementation of measures.
“Without the people participation you cannot control the spread of Covid-19”.
So far, Cambodia’s total cases is recorded at 362, including 324 recovered and others still hospitalised, and no deaths reported.
Global confirmed cases of Covid-19 are more than 74.1 million, including more than 41.9 million recovered, and more than 1.65 million deaths.
Strict compliance, not guinea pig
Cambodia’s experts tested tens of hundreds of people for Covid-19, although not many were detected with the virus but the concerned institutions and the people themselves complied with the instructions from the health ministry as well as WHO’s recommendations.
“Once we detect any person contracted the virus, we ask them where did that person go, when and who did the person have contact with,” said the Premier when he went into details of contact tracing.
Police and military are helping the health experts to trace people suspected of contracting the virus.
“We comply strictly with the quarantine that is why we can control the spread of the virus,” he said.
Cambodia is not the dumping site or testing center for anyone’s products. We are not guinea pigs [human guinea pig].
Measures must be complied with, such as testing for the virus and the 14-day quarantine.
“All authorities must check that each person complies with the measures. They must not rely on the medical doctors work alone. We must follow three protections measure of wearing masks, keep cleaning hands, and keep social distancing of more than 1.5 meters for all and should not talk loud because the droplets can fly far from your mouth,” the Premier explained.
“Do not go to closed areas, especially where equipped with air-con rooms, but open space. Do not go to crowded area, no hugging each other around when greeting or meeting”.
He also said that, there are some people, however, who do want to show up for tests due to their fear of being quarantined or self-quarantined at home.
PM Hun Sen says that he totally understands the impacts on many sectors, such education and others, but the life and well-being of the people are the most important of all.
“We need to deal with the issue for some time from now to ensure no more spread for the interest of all”.
No the state of emergency
The Premier, who himself was a hard-core fighter for the interest of the nation and the people, boasted that he has been in power for more than 36 years and no other Cambodian leader ever stayed that long. That is thanks to his leadership skills.
“I determined not to impose on the country a state of emergency although I have drafted the legal process, including the ones supposed to be sent to His Majesty and the chairman of the National Assembly and Senate”.
“We do not close factories because they comply with the social distancing”