Prime Minister Hun Sen requested patience and understanding from people who have tested positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19, saying the government cannot allow Omicron patients to get treatment at home due to the variant’s increased transmissibility.
“Omicron is not a big issue, but I beg your understanding and I am announcing that treatment at home for it is not permitted. If we don’t control it then the disease will spread in families and to the community, which could force us to walk backwards,” he said at an awards ceremony on January 5 at the Peace Palace for petanque world champion Ouk Sreymom.
Hun Sen said that the patients with the Alpha or Delta variants of the virus who are in good condition can still get treatment at home as usual as those are not as highly transmissible as Omicron.
“So far, we have 94 cases of Omicron, but some of the patients have already recovered. For those who have not yet recovered, we can’t permit home treatment. That’s my decision, because the comfort of one individual cannot be more important than the health of their children and spouses or the possibility of spreading the virus to the whole of Phnom Penh,” he said.
Hun Sen told authorities to strictly control and monitor the entry of all travellers at Cambodia’s international airports as well as migrant workers returning from Thailand and Vietnam, which have so far recorded 2,000 cases and 10 cases of Omicron, respectively.
“All people returning from abroad with Omicron have to be treated at hospitals, no matter how high in rank you are. I myself will go to Myanmar and if I come back with Omicron, I will also get treatment at the hospital.
“I will be a role-model for this issue. No matter if you are rich or poor or the child of ordinary people or of high-ranking officials you will have to be treated at the hospital,” he said.
He said that if Omicron leaks into the community and begins to spread there is no other way to deal with it aside from another lockdown in order to cut the transmission chain.
“Are you satisfied with that option? I think our people do not want that option to be chosen,” he said.
Hun Sen also told relevant authorities to speed up their construction of the Covid-19 treatment facility in order to accommodate new patients who are currently being treated at Olympic Stadium.
He noted that there are currently more than 500 Covid-19 patients nationwide, including 126 who are in intensive care units, but they needed the treatment facility finished in order to be ready for a possible surge in cases of the disease.
Hun Sen also announced eligibility for fourth dose booster shots of vaccines for the police, military police, civil servants, athletes, artists, journalists and other media sector workers.
“The fourth dose is for frontline workers who face high risks. We have more than 2.3 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and I think that if we use just more than 700,000 doses of it that will be enough,” he said.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said that according to research done in the US, Omicron can transmit faster than other variants because it can more easily attach itself to the upper respiratory tract and can be spread to others merely through speaking without a facemask on.
She said the ministry has taken the strictest measures to prevent the Covid-19 Omicron variant from spreading to the community, especially as relates to the control of travellers entering Cambodia.
Vandine said on January 3 that so far, all Omicron cases in Cambodia have been found on incoming travellers and therefore strict measures are required in the efforts to search out those infected once passengers arrive in Cambodia.
Vandine said even though Omicron cases have been reported and all of those patients have been treated or are under treatment, there are still patients who are getting infected with Delta and other strains of the virus in Cambodia.
“We can use the same treatments on patients because there is nothing that separates the Omicron variant from the other strains in that respect, it results in the same type of disease, it’s just transmitted faster and more spreads more aggressively,” she said.
To date, no deaths from the Omicron variant have been reported in Cambodia and while the global death toll from the variant remains uncertain, the UK for example has reported just 14 deaths and 129 patients hospitalised by Omicron out of hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases there, according to their national health service.