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Mask mandate may return if major outbreak occurs: PM

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Poland-donated Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport on July 3. SPM

Mask mandate may return if major outbreak occurs: PM

Over 140,000 doses of the Pfizer-manufactured Covid-19 vaccines donated by Poland arrived in Cambodia on the morning of July 3, with the government planning to administer the jabs to children aged 5-12.

Ministry of Health secretary of state York Sambath said at a ceremonial handover at Phnom Penh International Airport that this is the second vaccine donation to Cambodia from Poland, demonstrating the bonds of friendship between their governments and peoples.

Sambath said Cambodia is thankful to Poland and its fellow EU members as well as all of the other countries around the world who have provided donations of vaccines to the Kingdom.

“Cambodia has so far had more than 74 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines made available to the people. We have purchased more than 28 million doses and over 40 million doses have been donated through COVAX and by China with approximately 53 million doses of vaccines having arrived already,” she said.

She continued that nearly nine million vaccine doses are now in Cambodia’s national stockpile and that vaccinations remain a priority for protecting the people from getting severe illness or death if they contract Covid-19.

“We do not underestimate or neglect measures to guard against Covid-19 because it spreads so fast. We could have another new wave of it spreading if people are complacent, though I believe that the majority of the people still continue to protect themselves by maintaining protective health measures,” Sambath said.

According to the health ministry, over 94 per cent of the population had been vaccinated as of June 2. More than nine million people have received their third doses, nearly three million their fourth and over 310,000 their fifth.

Speaking at the 20th National Fish Day on July 1 at Ang Trapeang Thmor in Banteay Meanchey province’s Phnom Srok district, Prime Minister Hun Sen also reminded the public about a recurrence of Covid-19 despite the low number of reported cases. He called on everyone to remain vigilant.

“We need to remain cautious about a recurrence because the problem of Covid-19 is far from over. We have just prevented the nation from falling to its death from the precipice,” he said.

The premier called on the public not to panic over “fake news” about Covid-19, while warning that he has ordered the police to arrest anyone who spreads pandemic-related misinformation.

He cited the case of a man who had been arrested after posting fake news that a person had died from Covid-19 vaccines in Koh Kong province.

“Don’t believe fake news about vaccinations. We had him arrested for spreading misinformation on TikTok along with photo of a dead body saying the person had died from getting vaccinated in Koh Kong province,” he added.

“Something like this should not be the subject of pranks. There have been no deaths from Covid-19 in Koh Kong since April. I’m warning you now that anyone who treats Covid-19 like a joke will be arrested because this subject isn’t funny. If you make fun of it, you are causing chaos in society,” he said

The man in question was later identified as a TikTok user with an account name “Ou Khong”. Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Seng Heang on July 1 charged the man with “inciting chaos in society.”

The man is a resident of Tbong Khmum province and was arrested there on the night of June 30, pursuant to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court warrant.

Under article 495 of the Criminal Code, incitement to commit a felony or causing social chaos carries a prison sentence of six months to two years and incurs a fine of one million to four million riel ($250-$1,000) in cases where the incitement is judged to have been ineffective.

Hun Sen also stated that he might reinstate the mask-wearing in public mandate again if large-scale transmission of Covid-19 begins.

“Of course, the mask mandate was lifted, but the government might put it in place again if we see that there is large-scale transmission in our country. But if the rate it spreads at is low, then it is not too big of a problem because then the number of infections is very low,” he said.

Hun Sen said that currently there are no Covid-19 patients in any hospitals across the country as these new confirmed cases have all been mild and the patients preferred to treat themselves at home.

According to the health ministry, from June 28 to July 2, a total of 34 new cases were confirmed by PCR tests, most of which are apparently the result of transmission within the community.

The 34 infections are the first new cases found after a 52-day streak of zero Covid-19 cases reported in the Kingdom.

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