German ambassador to Cambodia Christian Berger said Germany had developed the first Covid-19 test system and assisted in the production of the highly effective Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was recently approved for use by World Health Organisation (WHO).
In a recent interview with The Post, Berger also noted that German medical technology company CureVac, in partnership with the German pharmaceutical firm Bayer, planned to produce up to one billion doses of vaccine per year, once their vaccine is approved.
“If every producer comes up with similar quantities, the Covid problem should disappear sooner, rather than later,” he said, adding that Germany supported the WHO’s COVAX initiative with more than €2.1 billion [$2.53 billion] in funding in 2020 and 2021.
“This money was given with no conditions attached other than those set by the WHO itself. In other words, we have fully delivered on our global pledge in [support of] the vaccination drive,” he said.
Regarding German contributions to Cambodia’s fight against Covid-19, Berger said Germany had provided support to help beef up the Kingdom’s testing capacity. Germany also supported the design and rollout of a cash transfer programme and facilitated the creation of a digital on-demand-identification scheme, which helped add 200,000 more households to the government cash transfer programme in May 2020.
“Furthermore, the German government has mobilised an additional cash transfer of €6 million to be channelled to the most affected [people in Cambodia] through the World Food Programme. In other words, Cambodia has received more than what others would call a fair share,” he said.
Asked if Germany would help provide vaccines to Cambodia, he said that Germany wants to be fair to every nation and that each country can organise their own distribution scheme through the WHO.
“We have deliberately taken the decision not to have prejudice against or in favour of any country, and not to have a prejudice in favour of or against any of the vaccines. Any vaccine approved by the WHO and bought by the WHO to be distributed is fine with us. And we hope that there will be a German one, obviously. But we are neutral on [this issue],” he said.
Berger said he admired and approved of the Cambodian government’s strict measures taken to deal with local transmission and also the Cambodian people’s mature acceptance of these decisions, as this level of cooperation helped to stabilise the situation here.
He noted that Cambodia has a limited capacity for its health system and so it is important to ensure that the Covid-19 infection rate remains low enough to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed by cases.
“I must say I am very much impressed both by the way the government had handled the first crisis incident and the subsequent individual outbreaks. And also, let me say that by the way the public has supported these harsh measures taken by the government,” he said.
Germany has recently provided Cambodia with an additional $16 million in response to Covid-19 in addition to its ongoing support in the areas of healthcare and social security, according to Berger.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Germany contributes a lot to the Cambodian healthcare system and has assisted with building capacity for government officials, especially in the areas of decentralisation and deconcentration as well as programmes like IDpoor, among others.
“Germany is an important player in the EU and has provided significant support to Cambodia. Their approach [to diplomacy] is soft, focusing more on capacity building and technical assistance. Cambodia welcomes their support as long as there are no conditions attached,” he said.