Updated: March 01, 2021 09:41 AM GMT
A medic talks to a woman waiting to take a Covid-19 test at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Feb. 23. (Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)
Cambodia is set to receive its first batch of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines as the rollout by the Covax Facility gets underway, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany expected to take their jabs later in the week.
Health officials said 324,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine would be delivered by the World Health Organization on March 2, with priority given to frontline workers ranging from health workers and garbage collectors to the police.
Cambodia is enduring its third community outbreak of Covid-19, which has resulted in a sharp spike in the number of confirmed cases even though the overall trend line is showing a decline.
To date, Cambodia has confirmed 820 cases of Covid-19 with 477 recoveries and no deaths, compared with 484 cases prior to the “February 20 Community Event” widely blamed on breaches in quarantine within the Chinese business community.
Nearly all cases have been recorded among Chinese, Cambodians and Vietnamese, particularly in Sihanoukville. The southern port town has been locked down and is a no-go zone for those living outside the city, with 20 hotspots identified by authorities.
Other cases included four UN peacekeepers who flew back into Cambodia from their missions in Africa through India last week.
Cambodia is due to receive at least 1.3 million doses through the Covax Facility, with the rest of the vaccines arriving throughout this year amid plans to inoculate at least 10 million people out of a population of 16 million.
China has already donated 400,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine and a further 600,000 are expected to arrive before Khmer New Year, which begins in mid-April.
More than 60,000 Cambodians have received the Sinopharm vaccine, including 47,000 military officials and close to 13,500 civilians, the Khmer Times reported. A total of 486,861 people have been tested, according to the CNE online news portal.
Hun Sen has described the latest outbreak as “a critical moment for us at a time when we are striving to fight against Covid-19 imported from Vietnam and Thailand.”
Almost half of Cambodia’s Covid-19 cases have been imported, with the disease confirmed among Cambodian workers returning from neighboring countries who often attempt to skirt border controls and potential quarantines.
“We have done well at the borders, having arrested 31 migrant brokers. We will continue to arrest anyone involved in smuggling people across the border illegally,” Hun Sen said.
Meanwhile, King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath Sihanouk left Phnom Penh early on March 1 for Beijing and routine medical checkups. Senate president Say Chhum will assume the title of acting head of state in the king’s absence.