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China pledges 20M Covid jabs

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A shipment of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines donated through ASEAN’s Covid-19 Response Fund arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport. UNICEF

China pledges 20M Covid jabs

Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed another 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Cambodia, five million of which are expected to arrive late this month.

Xi made the pledge on March 18 during a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to Kao Kim Hourn, the minister delegate attached to the prime minister.

This comes just over three months after Beijing announced that it would work with Phnom Penh to set up a Sinopharm manufacturing venture in Cambodia sometime soon. According to Ministry of Health secretary of state York Sambath, Sinopharm too has expressed willingness to work with Chinese ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian and the Kingdom on the project.

During the March 18 meeting, Hun Sen and Xi also advocated for more direct flights between the two countries, as well as development projects such as roads and schools, Kim Hourn noted.

“[Xi] voiced his support for Cambodia, which holds the ASEAN chairmanship in 2022, and underscored his support for ASEAN’s role in the region and in the world.

“ASEAN and China support peacekeeping, stability, development and prosperity in the region, and in particular the continued strengthening of ASEAN-China cooperation, with Cambodia as chair,” he added.

Hun Sen invited Xi to visit Cambodia at his convenience. In response, the Chinese president accepted the invitation and would work with relevant institutions to prepare the visit, Hourn said. Likewise, Xi also invited Hun Sen to visit China at his convenience, he added.

“[Hun Sen] thanked the Chinese president for supporting Cambodia as the ASEAN chair and for Chinese aid to Cambodia, especially vaccines, which Cambodia is in need of right now,” Kim Hourn said.

Sambath said on March 19 that Cambodia will soon receive more vaccines from the international community, including China, the US and Italy. In March alone, between five and seven million doses are expected to arrive in the Kingdom.

On March 19, Cambodia received a batch of 139,230 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from ASEAN member states and partners – including the US, EU, Australia and South Korea – who have mobilised funds to buy vaccines for its members.

According to Sambath, the doses were purchased using the $1.1 million it received as its share of the $15 million mobilised by ASEAN and its partners. The purchase was made through UNICEF, which assisted with procurement.

The Kingdom will also receive 5.5 million vaccine doses through the global vaccine alliance Covax from March through September this year.

Without specifying the timeframe, she said the US had also committed to donate another two million vaccine doses to Cambodia through Covax.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet and vaccination remains a key strategy to protect us against the disease. Vaccinations will continue to be rolled out rapidly – to achieve herd immunity and to reduce transmission rates. Vaccination also reduces a person’s chances of experiencing serious illness should they contract the virus,” she added.

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