The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia is heading towards further large-scale community transmission as the total number of confirmed cases is nearing 61,000 and the death toll passed 900 on July 10, senior health officials warned.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine expressed concern that the country was going to pass a red line if people relaxed their preventive measures.
“We must act responsibly together now to avert the situation. Large-scale community transmission is in front of us [if we don’t act now],” she tweeted on July 10.
The health ministry on July 11 reported another 981 Covid-19 cases, 259 of which were imported, bringing the total to 60,959 with 902 fatalities.
WHO representative to Cambodia Li Ailan also said on July 10 that what is needed for the fight against Covid-19 is solidarity and everyone taking action to reduce the importation of more cases. She said Cambodia needed to suppress virus transmission, increase patient care capacity and vaccinate more people.
She said the Delta coronavirus variant was far more transmissible, resulting in increased cases and therefore more deaths. The variant was imported to Cambodia over the land borders.
“The collective safety of our society is based on individuals preventing [transmission] with responsible behaviour, family participation, strong community engagement and local leadership,” she said
She said Cambodia’s largest outbreaks have occurred in 3C settings – crowded, close contact and confined – which pose the highest risk. She urged people to avoid these settings.
“I understand the challenges of avoiding 3C due to multiple factors. But I believe ‘WE CAN’ do so,” she tweeted.
The best choice, she said, was to temporarily close all 3C settings to suppress viral transmission and minimise the long-term social-economic impacts and to prevent the creation of any new 3C situations.
According to Li, increased movement of people including migrants, air passengers and domestic travellers introduced the Delta variant to Cambodia and has allowed the spread of virus variants across the country. She urged that only essential travel be permitted.
“Relaxing public health and social measures too quickly and lifting them too early causes Covid-19 surges. Cambodia’s achievements in vaccination are significant. But relaxing other Covid-19 measures too soon means ‘losing some of the gains’ that vaccines have provided,” she said.
Li said Cambodia had been working tirelessly to fight the disease but, unfortunately, there were no signs of transmission slowing down as the weekly average cases and deaths were still increasing and thus Cambodia needed new interventions, in addition to the existing measures.
Phnom Penh is among the country's Covid-19 hotspots, with around 200-300 positive cases recorded every day, according to municipal governor Khuong Sreng.
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, the municipal administration on July 9 issued a directive to suspend all occupations and businesses deemed to pose a high risk for transmission for another two weeks through July 23.
Sreng said the measures were necessary to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Businesses deemed as posing high risks include entertainment venues, KTVs, nightclubs, discotheques, beer gardens, casinos, resorts, museums, parks, massage parlours, cinemas and sport centres.
Public and private educational institutions must also remain suspended for in-person classes but are allowed to continue online. Some other businesses might also be suspended depending on the situation, the directive said.
In the meantime, health ministry secretary of state York Sambath said the number of deaths from Covid-19 remained high or even increasing due to aging and chronic illness in some of the patients, but the situation in Cambodia is under better control as compared to some neighbouring countries.
Speaking at a ceremony for the hand-off of four million more doses of Covid-19 vaccines at the Phnom Penh International Airport on July 10, Sambath said most of the deceased patients died at hospitals where they were admitted due to their critical conditions, both in Phnom Penh and in the provinces.
“The deaths are because they have illnesses such as lung disease, high blood pressure, and vascular diseases. When the virus gets into their body, it causes their existing disease to worsen and leads to the patients’ deaths,” she said, adding that medical doctors always tried to save their lives, but in some cases it just was not possible.
With the latest shipment of vaccines from China, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that since February 10 of this year, Cambodia has received around 17 million doses.
As of July 10, the country has vaccinated 4.8 million out of the targeted 10 million people aged 18 and over, or 48.46 percent. Hun Sen said the Kingdom was considering vaccinating people under 18 and also providing a third “booster” dose to the vaccinees after herd immunity is achieved.