As the G20 Summit kicked off in Indonesia, where world leaders convened to discuss various issues of global importance, Prime Minister Hun Sen found himself obligated to make an early return after testing positive for Covid-19.
The premier arrived in Phnom Penh on the evening of November 15, accompanied by all members of his delegation to the summit, which is slated to run in Bali through November 16.
“I thank Indonesia for taking care in receiving our delegation and we are sorry that we are unable to attend the G20 Summit,” he said while waiting to depart from Bali.
Hun Sen broke the news himself in a social media post on the morning of November 15.
“Before leaving Cambodia, I always take a Covid-19 test. And before departing this time, I took a rapid test like usual, but the result was negative. I am unaware as to when I became infected, but when I arrived in Indonesia I was tested again and this morning it was confirmed that I was Covid-19 positive. I have to accept this fact, although I don’t have any symptoms of illness,” he said.
Hun Sen planned to have a dinner meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and others on the evening of November 14, but was unable to attend due to a “tight schedule”.
He said that to ensure the safety of other leaders and diplomats, he decided to pass over the ASEAN chairmanship for the G20 summit to Indonesia, the next ASEAN rotating chair.
Hun Sen also planned to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Informal Dialogue in Thailand on November 18, but has now cancelled his appearance at the event as well.
He said he would now continue working in Cambodia remotely to isolate himself from others, with all planned in-person meetings either cancelled or moved online.
At the G20 summit, held under the theme “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”, Hun Sen had expected to make a speech on the importance of multilateralism and collaboration to a sustainable post-pandemic recovery, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The plan was for Hun Sen to address the opening session in a speech with a focus on sustainable growth titled “Promoting Sustainable Trade and Investment between APEC and Trading Partners”.
Duong Dara, Hun Sen’s social media manager, said the premier decided to return abruptly as he cares about the health of all the leaders who are attending the summit, no matter the low or high rate of Covid-19 transmission, or whether the disease is now mild or still dangerous.
He said the November 10-13 ASEAN Summit and related meetings were attended by many leaders from different parts of the world, including from countries where Covid-19 transmission remains high, and that was likely the source of transmission to Hun Sen.
“Although [Hun Sen] is positive for the disease, he is physically strong,” he said.
Or Vandine, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, on November 14 called on people to remain vigilant against Covid-19.
“We urge the public to continue taking preventive measures to stave off the virus as it isn’t far away from us and is actually still circulating with various variants,” she said.
Vandine also reiterated her call for people to get Covid-19 vaccines, both the basic doses and booster shots, to maintain the sustainability of living in a new normal without any closures of businesses or activities.