PM Hun Sen says Cambodia is set to fully open ahead of ASEAN meetings
An airport worker transports packages of Sinovac vaccine at Phnom Penh International Airport on Oct. 14. A new batch of 2 million doses of China-donated Sinovac arrived as Cambodia plans to reopen its economy. (Photo: AFP)
Cambodia is among the few counties pushing for a 100 percent vaccination rate against the Covid-19 pandemic as Prime Minister Hun Sen declared his country is set to fully reopen ahead of a hectic round of diplomatic meetings.
More than 80 percent of Cambodia’s 16.5 million people have received one jab while 75.5 percent are full vaccinated, with herd immunity reached among the adult population and inoculations now being rolled out among children. Another 1.4 million people have received a booster shot.
Daily cases are comfortably below 200 and surviving businesses are limping back to life in an economy that has been crushed by the pandemic, with an estimated 6 million people in the formal and informal economies losing their jobs.
Hun Sen said Covid patients who had recently died had existing severe medical conditions or were unvaccinated, noting that of the 12 people who died from the disease on Oct. 18 eight had not been inoculated.
“In light of all these, we can conclude that vaccines are the solid fortress for protecting our people, reducing transmission and preventing fatal conditions,” he said.
Officials said the government would build on herd immunity by fully vaccinating up to 91 percent of the population and analysts said a target of 100 percent is now in sight.
A formal reopening date has not yet been set but quarantine restrictions and health measures designed to curb the disease have steadily been relaxed
“It’s probably impossible to inoculate every single person in this country but it’s a target the government is now in a position to at least strive for,” said one observer who declined to be named.
Importantly, Cambodia is about to assume the role as chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and play host to a hectic year of meetings and summits involving leaders from across the region and further afield, including the United States and China.
A formal reopening date has not yet been set but quarantine restrictions and health measures designed to curb the disease have steadily been relaxed over the past two weeks.
Sources said the government was hoping a resumption of international travel will result in physical meetings in Phnom Penh as opposed to the webinars and Zoom conferences which have become the mainstay of ASEAN summits and dialogues during the pandemic.
“Webinars only kind of work,” a seasoned ASEAN observer said.
“They are OK for taking care of basic business and reaching a consensus on issues like the pandemic. But when it comes to negotiating free trade deals with dialogue partners — and there are lots of them — bureaucrats from different countries need to meet in person and behind closed doors to hammer out the details and avoid any type of miscommunication.”
ASEAN groups 10 Southeast Asian countries into one trade bloc which then negotiates trade agreements with its 10 dialogue partners ranging from Japan and New Zealand to India, Russia and the European Union.
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