Vandine: Covid not over, shifts in public health reponse needed

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Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine (left) at the 77th UNGA in New York City on September 23. SUPPLIED

A senior Ministry of Health official reiterated that the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over and requires active public awareness to promote changes in personal healthcare along with monitoring and identifying symptoms of suspected viral infection.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine was speaking at the “High-level Event on Ending the Covid-19 Pandemic through Equitable Access to Vaccines, Tests and Treatments”, during the Senior Leadership Meeting Week at the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 23.

She highlighted Cambodia’s success in containing the pandemic, noting that the outcome was accomplished primarily through an aggressive vaccination campaign, which to date has reached 95 per cent of the Kingdom’s estimated population of 16 million and enabled the country to fully reopen across all sectors late last year.

“The Covid-19 outbreak is not yet over and the world is still suffering from the pandemic. While encouraging people to get the Covid-19 vaccines, testing and treatment, we must also continue to actively promote changes in personal healthcare behaviours to monitor for and identify symptoms of suspected viral infection,” she said.

Rapid tests can be performed for suspected cases either at home or at a healthcare facility, or other designated location. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing may be performed for more accuracy or to confirm the rapid test or in case of any other need, she said.

Vandine said early diagnose and quick isolation and treatment were carried out by individuals and families and most cases could then be treated at home, but referral to a designated hospital should be made immediately if symptoms increase the severity of the disease.

She also stated that the facilitation of the import of medicines, vaccines, medical equipment, rapid tests and other materials for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 has been used in the Kingdom’s management of procurement of medical resources.

“Testing and treating Covid-19 patients is a necessary strategy that was adopted when the rate of transmission of the virus in Cambodia increased. We have also been working hard on risk management strategies to break the chain of transmission, which requires the involvement of individuals, families and communities for implementing key preventive measures,” said Vandine.

Cambodia is now launching a fifth-dose vaccination campaign while everyone is learning to live with the virus in a new and sustainable way to keep the country open into the future.

At the same time, Vandine made some recommendations for the implementation of measures to respond to the situation of Covid-19 around the world for the meeting to consider further, stating that good leadership and good governance are indispensable factors along with regular epidemiological analysis, monitoring and evaluation.

“We must continue to promote and fully support the activities of encouraging Covid-19 vaccinations in a responsible and committed manner and increase access to vaccines, test kits and therapies with operating guidelines that will have to be provided to countries, especially where resources are limited,” she said.

An important recommendation made by Vandine is that risk relationship, health education and community involvement remain important in responding actively to the spread of false or misleading information and to raise awareness and understanding of the benefits of vaccinations, testing and treatment strategies to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 77th UNGA, held at the UN headquarters in the US’ New York City, was personally attended by nearly 150 heads of state and government out of the 193 UN member countries, the remainder of which sent ministerial delegates. Also attending were representatives from national and international organisations, international development institutions and other distinguished guests from around the world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also noted at the meeting that this was the third UNGA to be held in the shadow of the Covid-19, but the first to be held in person since the pandemic began.

He said that despite the hard work of frontline health workers, health systems around the world were unprepared for the upheaval caused by the coronavirus. No country remains free of the virus at this point with low- and middle-income countries continuing to suffer the worst.

“We are seeing an increase in coverage of Covid-19 vaccines in all countries, especially among high-risk populations. We have learned many lessons from this virus and it has taught us how we can cure, save lives and control it. If we can combine these tools with greater ambition among world leaders, we can definitely end the pandemic by this year,” said Guterres.

Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his happiness that Cambodian people could celebrate Pchum Ben together this year. He made the remarks in an audio address to the nation on September 26 as he was leaving Cuba for Japan.

“We celebrated the Pchum Ben festival successfully with all aspects of safety respected, especially the best protection against the spread of Covid-19, which is quickly discovering and isolating infections to keep them under control, as there are only 10 cases or so in the country now and our Covid-19 vaccination rate is still going up,” he said.

Hun Sen stated that he would continue to monitor this and other activities in the country from afar while he was absent from Cambodia from September 21 to 28. Hun Sen’s next stop was Japan, where he was slated to attend the state funeral of Japan’s recently slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.