Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that vaccination become “mandatory” if the rate of Covid-19 infection does not subside and that this policy – if adopted – would first be applied to Phnom Penh.
In an audio message on April 6, he said the next step is to maximally suppress infections in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. And to ensure that they are resilient against the disease, he said all vaccines obtained by Cambodia for the foreseeable future will be targeted there.
“In Phnom Penh, we don’t care who you are. We’ve already set our priorities. The next goal is that all people have to be vaccinated. The vaccinations right now are on a voluntary basis. But I think at some point the vaccinations will become mandatory,” he said.
He said some countries would start reciprocating and ease their quarantines after their populations were widely vaccinated.
“For Cambodia – in Phnom Penh, Kandal province and other places – when the factories and enterprises have completed vaccination of their workers, those who have not been vaccinated may not have a job there anymore. The requirement for employment there might be that they won’t hire anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated.
“I think that for those who have not been vaccinated it will be unfortunate if they are unable to get a job or if they are no longer welcomed by those who already got their jabs. This could lead to discrimination,” he said.
The prime minister has also requested that an inter-ministerial working group establish a set of standard operating procedures to guide medical treatment at home for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms as a surge in cases could overwhelm the capacity of the Kingdom’s hospitals.
On April 6 alone, the Ministry of Health reported another 72 infections, bringing the total active cases to 1,003.
In an audio message posted on April 6, Hun Sen said Cambodia should prepare to do what other countries with a great many Covid-19 patients had previously done – such as the US and France – when hospitals were at risk of being overwhelmed with patients.
“At a previous inter-ministerial meeting, health minister Mam Bun Heng requested permission to allow treatments at home. Now, we need to assess the capacity of our hospitals. If the disease does not subside, our hospitals will be flooded with both serious and less-serious patients.
“We need to examine the possibility of bringing some people for treatment by medical specialists at the hospital, while also possibly treating some patients at home. We won’t be able to hospitalise every patient if the number of new cases keeps increasing, even if the recovery rate remains the same.
“If on a daily basis the new cases outnumber recoveries, eventually no matter how many hospitals we set up it won’t be enough,” he said.
The prime minister noted, however, that only patients whose condition was not serious and who have a proper place to live would be treated at home and if a patient’s house was too small in size or too crowded, then they would be taken to the hospital to avoid spreading the disease to family members.
He said at least 50 per cent of the patients currently being treated in hospitals could safely be treated at home and many have expressed a preference for doing so.
A mobile medical team should be set up in each district and staffed with volunteers to respond to any emergencies but no medic should be withdrawn from the hospitals to provide home treatment, he said.
He urged local authorities to provide 20,000 riel ($5) financial support per day to each Covid-19 patient recovering at home in order to ensure they had food and regardless of the family’s income.
“I think we will reach that phase if [Covid-19] does not subside, especially in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. That would be beyond our capacity.
“This problem is not happening in Cambodia alone. Other developed countries such as the US, France and the EU could not accommodate all of their patients either,” Hun Sen said.
Pursuant to these suggestions, Bun Heng wrote a letter to municipal and provincial governors requesting that mobile medical teams be set up to care for and treat asymptomatic and less-serious Covid-19 patients at home if an increase in confirmed cases threatens to overwhelm the country’s hospitals.
Meanwhile, health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine has reiterated her call for all private hospital and clinic owners to cooperate with the government to stop Covid-19 transmission, reminding them that they are not allowed to independently test and treat patients suspected of contracting the disease.