Prime Minister Hun Sen has concluded that the Khmer New Year celebrations from April 14-16 – during which large crowds were seen revelling without following any of the preventive health measures against Covid-19 – did not cause any significant outbreaks thanks to herd immunity.

In a special audio address to the nation following his return from the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Japan on April 24, Hun Sen said people need to get at least a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine as the government is considering easing some other restrictions.

“As of today, there is no sign of large-scale transmission. After the announcement lifting mask wearing mandates for the public in four provinces, we are now considering doing this in other provinces or in some zones in certain provinces to reduce the use of masks and the public's expenditures on them,” he said, adding that it was thanks to Cambodia's high rate of vaccination.

“I would like to announce this measure: All Cambodians must get at least three doses of vaccine. So far, the third dose has only reached eight million people and more than six million still need to get vaccinated for a third time,” he added.

He told Or Vandine, Ministry of Health spokeswoman and head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, to increase booster shot vaccinations for factory workers, street and market vendors and other people whose work put them at risk of transmission.

“During the Khmer New Year, our people were in close contact with each other but we don’t see any increase in transmission. The health ministry will issue further instructions when the mandatory mask rule is scrapped,” he said.

“But what I am asking for is that all people in Cambodia – not just factory workers but everyone across the country – get their third vaccine dose on a compulsory basis. This is a requirement in order to ease the other restrictions and do away with the other preventive health measures against Covid-19,” he said.

He also called on Vandine to focus on vaccinating students by setting up sites at schools.

Vandine said on April 23 that right now the vaccination campaign is targeting factory workers, urban areas, markets and schools. She said vaccinations among students – especially those aged 6 to 11 – remain too low.

She said that with the new campaign kicking off recently, the number of vaccinations had increased and that vaccination teams will also go to communities to provide jabs to those who have missed getting them previously.

World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Li Ailan said vaccinations have not stopped and the booster shot campaign is now picking up speed again.

“On behalf of the WHO, we hope that everyone will learn from Cambodia’s successful model that shows the world how to respond to Covid-19 in a sustainable way. We know that Cambodia has learned a lot of lessons it can now share with the world,” she said.

As of April 23, Cambodia had vaccinated 93.04 per cent of its estimated population of 16 million. Third-dose vaccinations have reached 8.22 million people, while fourth doses have reached 1.36 million.

Meanwhile, more than one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Italian government touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of April 24 with an official handover ceremony presided over by Hun Sen set for April 25.