‘Wait and see’ the only option for post-holiday Covid plans

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People travelling to their hometowns on National Road 6 ahead of the Pchum Ben public holiday. Hong Menea

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine reiterated that the overall spread of Covid-19 over the Pchum Ben holiday last week would be fully assessed within one to two weeks after the holiday.

Vandine, who is also head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, made the remarks at the closing ceremony for the Kampong Chhnang jab drive on October 12.

“Only after we’re seven to 14 days past the holiday can we make any real assessment because it takes some time for people who are infected to develop symptoms or be detected through testing and we still need to look at each case closely to determine whether they contracted the disease during the holiday or not before we can conclude whether transmission is lower or higher as a result,” she said.

She said that the evaluation of the situation would also need to take place on a national level and after discussions and evaluations, the conclusions will then be submitted to Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials who can then use that information to inform their decision-making process, Vandine explained.

Vandine called on the public once again for vigilance even for those who had already been vaccinated with two doses, reminding everyone that many people – especially those who are vaccinated – can actually be positive for the disease and infectious to others while being totally asymptomatic and feeling healthy.

Hun Sen said on October 6 that Pchum Ben holiday could prove to be a trial and a decisive period in determining whether the country will face renewed disaster or gradually improved safety in the coming weeks because – contrary to the advice they were given – people flocked to their hometowns for family reunions over the holiday.

He said that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable or shows decline for 15 consecutive days from the last day of Pchum Ben on October 7, then Cambodia will reopen fully – albeit with local adjustments made by sub-national authorities to take the pandemic account, such as rules about vaccination cards.

Meanwhile, Vandine noted that some people have said that they lost their vaccination cards and the vaccination committee was planning some system for providing new cards to people in those cases.

“According to the information I received, some people have claimed they lost their cards but when we looked into it we discovered that they hadn’t all really lost their cards and they were trying to obtain a duplicate, possibly to sell it to someone who was refusing to be vaccinated without legitimate reasons for exemption because that person had decided – once again – that they should be free of all consequences for their choices, unlike everyone else around them.

“I’d like to emphasize that anything that is easy to get is also easy to lose. If it is easy to obtain then it is of lesser value. And if it isn’t valuable, then why be careful with it? If we give you replacement cards for free you won’t value them or be careful with them and so you’ll lose those too,” she said.

She noted that the government had spent a lot already on producing the cards, including purchasing the machines for producing the cards in large numbers and the materials for the card machines as well as training staff to produce the cards and employing them to do it on an ongoing basis.

“You can safely assume that you will be required to pay a fee – exact amount yet to be determined – for any replacement vaccination cards,” she concluded.