A total of 700,000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine donated by China are expected to arrive in Cambodia on March 31 with 400,000 to be administered by the Ministry of Health and 300,000 by the Ministry of National Defence.

Defence minister Tea Banh said on March 30 the 300,000 doses allotted to his ministry would be used to inoculate members of the armed forces and their families who had not been vaccinated during the first phase.

“On the morning of March 31 the People’s Republic of China – in coordination with the defence ministry – will provide Cambodia with 700,000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for the second phase. These vaccines will be transported here by Chinese air force,” he said.

Chinese ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian had previously confirmed on March 26 that the 700,000 doses are scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh on March 31.

“This is a clear demonstration of the great friendship between China and Cambodia, and I sincerely hope that Chinese vaccines will be a strong shield defending the health of the Cambodian people against Covid-19,” he said.

To date, Wang said, over 60 countries had administered Chinese vaccines to their populations after authorising them for emergency use. China is providing vaccine assistance to 80 countries around the world and three international organisations as well.

The 600,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine that China provided to Cambodia in the first phase arrived on February 7. With the next shipment scheduled for March 31, the total would amount to 1.3 million doses.

Recently, the Cambodian government has also purchased 1.5 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine – also originating from China but developed separately from Sinopharm.

Meanwhile, National Assembly president Heng Samrin called on the public to join the fight against Covid-19 by implementing health measures at all times with the utmost responsibility.

“To prevent Covid-19 from spreading and harming our society further, the government is mobilising all available means to acquire Covid-19 vaccines for the Cambodian people – including donations from friendly countries and international [development] partners, as well as through purchase orders,” he said.

Samrin praised the government’s ambitious project to vaccinate over 10 million people in the country at a minimum rate of one million doses per month in order to bring an end to the crisis.

Pauline Tamesis, UN Resident Coordinator in Cambodia, said UN staff members in Cambodia are all grateful to be included in the government’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan as requested by the UN secretary-general.

“UN personnel in Cambodia must do our part to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, and this includes receiving vaccinations to protect ourselves, our families, our communities and the communities we serve,” she said.

Tamesis added that Cambodia could only begin to “build back better” once the pandemic was brought under control.

“We are being vaccinated so that we can stay and deliver [on the UN’s commitments to the Cambodian people],” she said.

According to a report from the health ministry, from February 10 to March 29 a total of 390,456 people had been vaccinated – 256,625 civilians and 133,831 members of the armed force.