The government has spent more than $2 billion to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Hun Sen revealed while addressing a gathering of about 2,000 Cambodians in Brussels, Belgium.

The premier is in Brussel for the December 14 ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit, which he will co-chair with European Council President Charles Michel. The event will mark 45 years of ASEAN-EU Dialogue Partnership.

“During the depths of the pandemic, we released more than $2 billion in cash from the state coffers to fight Covid-19 and ensure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our society,” he said.

“The struggle against the virus was no small matter. It required a huge effort. Fighting an invisible enemy which has claimed so many lives around the world is a difficult task for even the wealthiest nations. Ultimately, a country which many expected to fail became one of the fore-runners of controlling Covid-19,” he added.

He also emphasised the contempt that some developed countries appeared to show the Kingdom’s control of the pandemic.

“Ultimately, because we are not a wealthy nation, we had no choice but to work with the people and rely on them accepting the preventative measures that the Ministry of Health put in place. To their credit, they did just that,” said Hun Sen.

The two most important measures that the Kingdom adopted were the three dos and three don’ts strategy, and its extraordinarily successful vaccination campaign, which resulted in an inoculation rate of over 96 per cent, he added.

He said that although Cambodia was poor, the government had not hesitated to spend its reserves to ensure that vaccinations would be free to every resident of the Kingdom.

“It is important to emphasise that although we are relatively poor, we were not afraid to spend our own money – and funds from philanthropists – to buy 28.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and make sure that everyone who needed one would get it, for free. Cambodian donors have joined the government in many ways, contributing over $100 million to the purchase of vaccines and other equipment,” he added.

He mentioned that throughout the lockdowns which were necessitated by the pandemic, one of his major concerns was the closure of schools. This resulted in about four million students studying online.

“As it turned out, Covid-19 forced the rapid development of information technology in Cambodia,” he said.

Hun Sen cited the success of the November ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Phnom Penh as an excellent example of the Kingdom’s control of the virus.

It was this control that opened the door for Cambodia to convene the summit after two-years of virtual events.

He referred to a picture of US President Joe Biden taking selfies with Cambodian students while attending the summit.

“This picture clearly shows that the US trusts the security of Cambodia – and its control of infectious diseases,” he said.

He continued to call on people to be vigilant against the Covid-19 and said Cambodia is building a Covid-19 treatment hospital with a capacity of 10,000 beds.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as of December 2, there have been more than 640 million cases of Covid-19 worldwide, with more than 6.6 million deaths.

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng called on people to remain vigilant, reminding them that although the virus is invisible to the naked eye, it is still circulating.

“In order to keep the country running safely and happily, please continue to participate in preventing the transmission of Covid-19 in our communities by implement preventative measures, especially the three dos and three dont’s,” he said.

According to the health ministry, as of December 13, Cambodia had a total of 138,302 Covid-19 cases, with 135,130 recoveries and 3,056 deaths.