The Ministry of Health instructed the capital and provincial authorities to survey all households in the Kingdom in order to determine who has not been vaccinated and to note down the specific reasons given by each unvaccinated individual.

“[We] must then try to educate them to understand the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines and try to convince them all to get vaccinated – especially the elderly people – unless they have a medical reason,” the ministry wrote in its press release on October 19.

According to the ministry, the majority of Cambodia’s population aged 6 and up volunteered to be vaccinated at their earliest available opportunity, including a large number of centenarians.

It said Cambodia had seen no signs that any of the vaccines administered to the population had caused any lasting or harmful side effects or injuries to anyone.

Still, the ministry said there are definitely some people in Cambodia who have for some reason avoided the jabs entirely. It said authorities need to identify who they are and simply ask them about the reason on an individual basis rather than speculate about it.

“[We] remind the public that most of the deceased Covid-19 patients were those who had not been vaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated and get infected are over 10 times more likely to die than any vaccinated people who get infected.

“To end this pandemic and minimise the number of additional – and needless – deaths due to Covid-19, we appeal to the general public to voluntarily be vaccinated. You can consult with doctors regarding the safety of vaccines at your local healthcare facility,” the ministry said.

On October 19 alone, the ministry reported 11 more deaths, noting that eight of the deceased had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The ministry also noted that some vulnerable groups of people who must be cautious with their health – such as the elderly, pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers, people who contracted Covid-19 and recovered from it earlier, and those with other chronic health conditions – may actually be okay for vaccination though they should check with their doctors.

As of October 18, over 13 million people – or 85 per cent of Cambodia’s total population of around 16 million – have gotten their jabs, according to the ministry.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Covid-19 vaccinations have largely paved the way for a full reopening of the country.

In a special address to the nation on October 19, he concluded that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday – during which many Cambodians either flocked to their hometowns or gathered at tourist attractions across the country – has not led to a large-scale Covid-19 outbreak as previously feared.

Hun Sen said the rate of transmissions appeared to actually be lower now than it was prior to the holiday.

“After Pchum Ben, when our people travelled to many places, we’ve seen that the number of new transmission cases has not increased but instead decreased, while the number of deaths has been stable and likely to decline. This is a big testament [to our success] as I said previously before we reopen the country in all sectors,” he said.

Nevertheless, he urged the public to maintain vigilance as the pandemic has shown no sign of ending anytime soon.

Aside from the 11 deaths on October 19, Hun Sen noted that eight of 12 Covid-19 patients who died the previous day had not been unvaccinated while the four were all of advanced age and had pre-existing medical conditions that caused complications.

“In light of all these, we can conclude that vaccines are the solid fortress for protecting our people, reducing transmission and preventing fatal conditions,” he said.

He called on those members of the public who have not been vaccinated yet to relent and get their jabs before it was too late for them or risk throwing their lives away like those who have already died needlessly from Covid-19 in the months since the vaccines became available to them.

He requested that authorities make every effort to bring vaccines directly to people living in remote or rural areas or who have difficulties for any reason.

Hun Sen urged the public not to send patients from provinces to Phnom Penh for treatment and should instead admit them to designated hospitals in the provinces as they have been adeqately equipped to treat Covid-19 patients. Sending them to the capital would only pose a high risk of transmission and cause the patients to develop severe conditions, he said.

He said as it is now the time to adapt lives to the new normal in the context of Covid-19, he urged unity in the communities by not discriminating against people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and get treatment at home. Patients getting home-based treatment should instead be motivated, he added.