The novel coronavirus continues to spread and evolve into new strains with slightly different genetic codes, requiring Cambodia to prioritise speeding up the Covid-19 vaccination campaign to boost herd immunity across the country.

Prime Minister Hun Sen made the remark on the morning of March 18 during the ceremonial handover of 523,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses donated to Cambodia by Hungary, according to a statement posted on his Facebook page.

“Sharing Covid-19 vaccines is truly vital to the effective prevention of the spread of this contagious disease.

“Cambodia strongly believes vaccination to be a priority for us all and that the jabs will retain their status as key strategic commodities in the battle against the pandemic and in learning to live with Covid-19, as well as the resumption of socio-economic activities,” the statement quoted him as saying.

The premier noted that Hungary is the sixth country to donate Covid-19 vaccines to Cambodia on a bilateral basis – as opposed to through COVAX or other multilateral initiatives.

Hun Sen hailed the donation as a humanitarian gesture and a reflection of the attentiveness of the Hungarian government and people to the Covid-19 fight in Cambodia and around the world.

Acting Hungarian charge d’affaires for Cambodia, Istvan Bakos, told the ceremony that the central European country was “pleased” to see the Kingdom achieve “wonderful success” in the Covid-19 fight, according to the statement.

Offering examples, Bakos cited the Kingdom’s relatively high vaccination rates and low mortality rates compared to its regional and global peers, which are reported by the Ministry of Health.

“This handover ceremony of more than half a million AstraZeneca vaccines today is another step forward in our bilateral cooperation, and Hungary is committed to help Cambodia in its development, for the mutual benefit of our two countries.

“We believe that aid provided at a time of need is genuine aid indeed,” he was quoted as saying.

As of March 17, 92.34 per cent of Cambodia’s estimated 16 million population had received at least a first Covid-19 dose, according to the health ministry.