The Kingdom’s “successful reopening” following two years of pandemic-related restrictions was the result of concerted efforts by the people and courageous decision-making by the nations’ leaders, Prime Minister Hun Sen recalled as Cambodia marked the 1st anniversary of the reopening of socio-economic activity on November 1.

While addressing a graduation ceremony for over 6,000 students from the Royal University of Law and Economics on November 1, the premier noted that the country recorded economic growth of three per cent in 2021, an excellent sign of recovery from the 3.1 per cent decline experienced in 2020.

And thanks to new financial management laws which establish a macroeconomic framework, economic growth for 2023 is projected to reach 6.6 per cent, he added.

“This follows efforts by every one of us to reopen the country. We also introduced measures to allow the reopening of all schools and educational facilities, while protecting the safety of all staff and students,” he said.

Hun Sen said the steps taken by the government in 2020 and 2021 were necessary to save people’s lives. Without the protection afforded by the restrictions, many people could have died from the contagious disease.

His decision to reopen the country was based on four factors: vaccinations, treatment, containment and people’s compliance with preventative measures.

The government lifted mask mandates on April 26 this year, with the decision about when to mask up now being up to each member of the public.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said he supported the government’s decision to impose measures to control Covid-19 before reopening.

He added that the successful reopening restored the Kingdom’s socio-economic activity, and demonstrates that the timing was correct.

“What enabled the government to reopen the country was the remarkable success of its vaccination campaign. We are now enjoying a normalcy that many countries are still not experiencing,” he said.

Regardless, Hun Sen has renewed his call for the public to continue protecting themselves against Covid-19 and other contagious diseases.

“Although infections have declined, it’s not over yet. We have not yet won the war on Covid, just a major battle. It is also important to remember that there are other diseases out there, like monkeypox and ebola. Just because our progress up to this point has been successful, we must not let our guard down,” he said.

Or Vandine, Ministry of Health spokeswoman and head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, likened November 1 to the salvation of many Cambodian lives, akin to the January 7, 1979 liberation of the Kingdom from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

Vandine appealed to the public to remain vigilant and make sure their Covid-19 vaccinations are as up to date as possible, be it a third, fourth or fifth, saying this is important to ensure the sustainability of the life under the new normal.

She warned that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is still continuing to mutate, with 35 countries now reporting the presence of the XBB sub-variant. The presence of the Omicron BQ1 sub-variant has been confirmed in 65 nations so far, she noted.