People receive a dose of China's Sinopharm vaccine at a school in Phnom Penh on May 3. (Photo: AFP)
Authorities in Cambodia have eased severe lockdown restrictions amid promises its vaccine rollout program will be accelerated as the latest community outbreak of Covid-19 shows no signs of abating.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Kim Santepheap said three weeks of harsh lockdown measures in Phnom Penh and neighboring Tak Mao had effectively cut off the severe spread of the disease from the capital to the provinces.
“The result of the implementation of the measures is to cut off the severe and swift outbreak of the virus at an unprecedented rate,” he was quoted as saying by the Khmer Times.
The lockdown had divided the capital into three zones; yellow, orange and red. Those in the red zone were confined to their homes, while people in the orange zone were confined to street blocks and the yellow zone held the least restrictions.
Jail terms and heavy fines were imposed on anyone caught crossing from one zone to another. That containment policy resulted in food shortages and some price gouging.
The easing of restrictions was announced on May 6 as Cambodia reported 650 new cases of Covid-19 with four more deaths, while 739 patients had recovered.
The recent spike in community cases underscores the need for the government’s strong response
Cambodia has confirmed a total of 17,621 cases with 6,843 recovered, meaning there are more than 11,000 active cases. The death toll stands at 114.
Health officials said all 650 new patients were involved with the February 20 Community Event when two Chinese women breached quarantine and went out partying, resulting in the latest outbreak.
“The recent spike in community cases underscores the need for the government’s strong response to contain the pandemic and speed up the vaccination rollout to achieve herd immunity,” said Dr. Seung Hyun Luke Hong of the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office.
Cambodia has been quick in rolling out vaccines, inoculating 1.3 million people with plans to speed that up with the help of the army. It wants a further half million vaccinated by June amid hopes of creating herd immunity by the end of this year.
In Laos, the National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control urged people to “keep their guard up” against the latest outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases now exceeding 1,000, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
“Everyone is urged to observe social distancing, wash their hands regularly and wear a face mask when going out,” said Latsamy Vongkhamsao of the Department of Communicable Disease Control.
Meanwhile, the deputy minister of health in Vietnam, Nguyen Truong Son, led a team of 35 medical experts to Laos this week to provide support in tackling the disease, the Vietnam Express reported.
It said this included the construction of field hospitals and assistance with intensive care and Covid testing capabilities. They also delivered US$500,000 worth of medical items including 200 ventilators and two million face masks.