Li urges cautious reopening

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Motorists crossing the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh on Sunday. Hong Menea

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said it was good news that economic activity will resume as businesses and the general public have been hit hard by the pandemic, but she also cautioned that everyone has to strike a balance between reopening and the implementation of health measures.

“We all, myself included, have to take precautions. If we reopen, we have to have clear preventive measures to avoid a recurrence of Covid-19,” she said.

Li made the remarks on the night of October 22 while joining Ministry of Health secretary of state York Sambath and UNICEF representative to Cambodia Foroogh Foyouzat to receive a shipment of 124,800 doses of vaccines provided through Covax – a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Li said WHO has been working with the health ministry to devise vaccination strategies and health measures.

She continued that Cambodia had to strengthen the country’s health system in response to emerging risks, as well as rapid detection of the virus and international risk management with other countries.

“The most important point is the monitoring system. We need to monitor the implementation of health measures. This system is a factor leading to success in reopening the country and preventing the spread of the disease,” she said.

“The spread of this virus could lead to the country being locked down again. We need to prevent further lockdowns.”

Li raised three key points that enabled Cambodia to control the spread of the virus. The first was the government’s swift decision to acquire adequate vaccine supplies through purchase, donation, Covax and bilateral agreements with partner countries. The government’s leadership and activities of relevant committees were also the driving force, she said.

“The second point is public participation. We see that most Cambodians have knowledge about Covid-19. Although there are some shortcomings, overall public participation has been very active. In some countries, there are denials to take the vaccines,” she said.

The third point, she added, is the solidarity between international partners, including WHO and UNICEF. They have also been working closely with the government.

As of October 22, the total amount of vaccines donated to Cambodia through Covax is around 2.5 million doses out of the total 6.6 million that Cambodia will receive through the mechanism down the road.

UNICEF representative Foyouzat commended the government for achieving high rate of vaccinations for the population.

According to the health ministry, as of October 23 Cambodia had vaccinated more than 13.65 million people aged 6 years and older, or 85.36 per cent of the total population of around 16 million.

The country has vaccinated 99.74 per cent of the adult population of 10 million, 90.63 per cent of the 12-17 group of nearly two million and 100 per cent of the 6-11 age group of nearly 1.9 million.