Amid the difficult and unpredictable circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the global political and economic situation of rising costs and inflation, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged closer cooperation and mutual assistance between ASEAN member states and partners.

“I would like to encourage the prioritisation of the welfare of the people and public health, strict adherence to the spirit of mutual assistance and the strengthening of cooperation in all fields,” he said at the August 18 ceremonial handover of 300,000 Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by Spain.

“As the chair of ASEAN in 2022, Cambodia will strive to strengthen the bloc’s cooperation within the region as well as with the EU and Spain,” he added.

The premier said that although Covid-19 has been largely brought under control, it has not yet ended and the entire world is also facing many other alarming challenges that can disrupt the momentum of the global socio-economic recovery.

“In particular, rising fuel prices have led to high inflation everywhere, especially in the US and EU, which has forced the central banks to raise interest rates to curb the rise in inflation but that could lead to a decline in global demand.

“Moreover, high inflation has also been putting increasing pressure on the daily lives of our people,” he said.

The handover of the 300,000 Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses was presided over by the prime minister and Cristina Elisa Aguilar Jimenez, charge d’affaires at the Spanish embassy in Bangkok, accredited to Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

The donation is specifically reserved for vaccinating Cambodia’s children. Jimenez said the vaccines donation came about as a result of an agreement between the health ministries of Cambodia and Spain, with further assistance from the EU.

“This is evidence of our solidarity and the commitment of the people of Spain to help Cambodia in the fight against Covid-19. Spain has provided more than 50 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines through donations globally, making us the seventh ranked country in the world in total donations and we plan to provide 20 million more doses in the future,” she said.

Jimenez also praised the Cambodian government for successfully controlling the pandemic, saying Spain was proud to contribute to the Kingdom’s effort to combat the disease.

“Spain has paid attention to the development and achievements of Cambodia and we are a member of he EU which has provided a budget of € 443 million to Cambodia for three projects,” she said, adding that the projects were healthcare support, livelihood support, and economic recovery and job creation.

Cambodia has been widely praised for its measures against Covid-19, with all sectors of the economy and society having been reopened since November, 2021. The Kingdom achieved the No1 ranking in the Nikkei Covid-19 Recovery Index in July as the country the furthest along on the path back to business as usual, according to the ranking report compiled by the prominent Japanese news service Nikkei Asia.

For August, Cambodia’s ranking remained strong though it had dropped to second place overall on the list. There have been no deaths from Covid-19 in Cambodia since April of this year and daily infections remain under 50 new cases per day even with the arrival of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants.

In a speech at the University of Puthisastra graduation ceremony on August 17, Hun Sen also called on everyone to continue to carry on the fight against Covid-19 by getting booster vaccinations and following health precautions to prevent any future outbreaks.

He urged those who have yet to receive a first dose to do so immediately, while children should be vaccinated when they reach the required age and then continue on with the necessary periodic booster shots.

“We have to keep fighting. We can control it, but we must not underestimate it. Covid-19 has not gone anywhere. It is still with us,” he said.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on August 17 that receiving booster shots helps maintain the immune system’s antibodies at a level that minimises the severity of Covid-19 when infections occur and greatly reduces the chance of hospitalisation or death from the virus.

“Covid-19 vaccinations save people’s lives and avoid a public health disaster, as well as ensure the economy continues to function through unaffected business and trade, both domestically and beyond,” Vandine said.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has delivered another batch of molnupiravir, an oral antiviral treatment for mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in adults, to further support the Cambodian government in its fight against the pandemic.

The shipment of 826,560 tablets touched down at Phnom Penh International Airport on the night of August 17.

“The supply is enough to treat 20,664 people affected by the virus in Cambodia. Funding was provided by UNICEF’s ACT-A Supplies Financing Facility [ACT-A SFF], with contributions from the Canadian government,” the UN agency said in a statement. “The ACT-A SFF is a UNICEF-housed fund dedicated to supporting low- and middle-income countries to equitably access key Covid-19 supplies, such as Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.”

UNICEF noted that molnupiravir helps lower the risk of severe infection, especially among vulnerable groups like the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. It said the pills will be made available for eligible patients through designated health facilities across the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) included molnupiravir in its Covid-19 therapeutics guidelines in early March of this year.

However, due to insufficient safety data, WHO recommends that the medication be administered “only to non-severe Covid-19 patients with the highest risk of hospitalisation”. They include people who have not been vaccinated for Covid-19, those with immunodeficiencies and the above-mentioned vulnerable groups. Children and pregnant women as well as breastfeeding mothers should not be given the drug, it noted.