Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that the Khmer New Year celebration and holidays – which falls in mid-April – will be celebrated this year, following two years of cancellations of public celebrations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the inauguration of an upgraded section of National Road 7 in Kratie province on February 7, Hun Sen said to make that possible, eligible people must get vaccinated and preventative measures must continue to be implemented. This will prevent the country slipping back into the grip of the virus.
“I appeal to all compatriots to try our best to do whatever we can to prevent the country from walking backwards. For two years, we have missed the Khmer New Year celebrations. This year, we must celebrate, dance and revel, but we must also keep our distance from each other and not congregate too closely,” he said.
Cambodia has cancelled public celebrations of the festival for the last two years due to the pandemic. In 2020, the government postponed the traditional celebrations while the holiday from April 13-16 was filled with normal work, although small celebrations at home were permitted. The government then compensated with five-day public holiday later that year.
In 2021, the New Year holidays were given, but the government told the public to avoid travelling to their hometowns since the Covid-19 situation had not yet improved.
Over the past month, Cambodia has reported zero deaths of Covid-19 patients and the economy has almost completely resumed. However, the premier still pushed for vaccinations and urged a vaccine production facility to be built in Cambodia.
Hun Sen also said that he would no longer donate vaccines to other countries, but that all people – Cambodian and foreigners alike – will receive free vaccinations in Cambodia. He said he had promised vaccine-producing companies he would not donate more jabs.
Cambodia had previously donated 700,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine to its neighbour Laos and 200,000 others to Vietnam.
“I will not donate vaccines to other countries because they all have vaccines for themselves now. All the vaccines that we have are for use in only our country,” he said.
Following the start of the latest booster campaign, Hun Sen said Cambodia currently has 8.8 million doses. The country has ordered three million more doses from a Chinese company, while the Chinese government had committed to donate an additional five million. He urged the unspecified biopharmaceutical firm to speed up delivery to Cambodia.
“I want them to ensure that I have enough vaccines at hand to inoculate my people. Vaccination is the best way to achieve herd immunity and to prevent any more deaths from Covid-19. This is the key to our strategy,” he said.
Hun Sen also added that vaccinations will always be provided free of charge. He rejected a recommendation that people should be charged for the third or fourth dose.
“I have always said that vaccination will be free of charge. How could we charge our own people? Foreigners in Cambodia will also get vaccinated for free,” he said.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine on February 7 reiterated her call for the public to continue to carry out preventive measures and to get vaccinated at designated locations.
The ministry on February 7 reported 108 new Covid-19 cases – five of which were imported – and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant.
Last week, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan also urged vigilance to prevent the virus from placing great strain on the Kingdom’s medical infrastructure, despite this variant being seemingly less deadly than Delta or Alpha.