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Vaccine relief promised: Australia to provide assistance under Covax initiative

Khann Chanvirak / Khmer Times Share:
A staff member works during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. AFP

Australia will provide COVID-19 vaccine assistance to Cambodia, under the Covax initiative, after the World Health Organization approves one or more currently being tested by several countries.

The announcement of COVID-19 vaccine assistance to Cambodia was made during a meeting between Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, Pablo Kang and Cambodian Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng on Friday afternoon.

During a meeting at the Ministry of Health, Kang said the Australian government would provide COVID-19 vaccine assistance to Cambodia when the WHO announces it for official use in the future.

“The Australian Govern-ment has announced a grant of AUD 500 million (about $360 million) to the Covax initiative, a project to develop and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, which was initiated by the WHO, at the time when the vaccine is effective, usable and available to supply countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including Cambodia,” he said.

Kang confirmed that the Australian grant to the Covax initiative would provide COVID-19 vaccines to help with the above-mentioned countries and public health-related work.

“Vaccines are currently being tested for their effectiveness and ability to be used effectively and evaluated by the World Health Organization,” he said.

“In addition, Australia will strengthen cooperation with Cambodia on human resource training through scholarships,” he added.

Bun Heng thanked the Australian government and people for their support to the health sector in Cambodia.

“Australia has provided many benefits for Cambodia and especially during COVID-19 when it will make available a vaccine to Cambodia in the future and train human resources,” he said.

The minister also recalled the cooperation in the field of health between the two countries, especially from 2007 until the present.

He said the Australian government has provided cooperation to tune of AUD 145 million (about $106 million) in a bilateral agreement.

At the Asean-Australia Summit last weekend, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a head-turning new package of economic, development and security measures to support Southeast Asia’s recovery from COVID-19.

He said the package totals over AUD 500 million ($365 million) and comes on top of regular development cooperation programmes – around AUD 65 million ($50 million) annually in Cambodia – and a recent announcement of a further AUD 500 million ($365 million) to assist Australia’s Indo-Pacific neighbours to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine.

It is Australia’s largest non-loan package of assistance to the region in decades and Cambodia will be a key partner and beneficiary.

On October 12, Chinese State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi promised that Cambodia will be one of the first countries to receive a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China, once one becomes available, during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, co-chair of the Cambodia-China Intergovernmental Coordination Committee on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the Common Destiny Community of Cambodia-China.

However, Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told Khmer Times later that she does not have any information on the matter and did not yet know how many doses of a Chinese vaccine would be given.

During a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and the new Russian Ambassador to Cambodia Anatoly Borovik on September 24, Mr Hun Sen requested Russia to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia.

Russian Embassy press secretary Rafael Iangareev said that during the meeting between Borovik and Mr Hun Sen, the supply of the Russian developed vaccine was touched upon.

“Our embassy has notified the relevant Russian authorities about the interests of Cambodia regarding the vaccine and are now waiting for the response. The situation will be clarified when we have that response,” he said.

On October 21, Vandine said that the WHO has confirmed that Cambodia will receive COVID-19 vaccines, when and if they are officially released, for three percent of the population.

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases have risen to 306 with a Cambodian returnee testing positive.

A Cambodian man returning from Japan tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

The Health Ministry said in a statement that the man, 27, from Prey Veng province was diagnosed with the virus on his fourth test on the 13th day of an extended quarantine after returning from Japan via a flight from South Korea on October 26.

A passenger being questioned at the COVID-19 screening centre in the Phnom Penh International Airport. Fresh News

He is receiving treatment at a hospital in Phnom Penh.

It noted the extended quarantine was imposed because the man was on a flight with a total of 39 passengers and two Cambodian on board tested positive on October 27.

 

One is currently being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and the other has recovered.

During a second test on November 8, two other Cambodian men were found to be COVID-19 positive and both of them recovered on November 19.

Of the remaining 34 passengers, who tested negative at the time, 28 were quarantined in two hotels in Phnom Penh and six at Pochentong High School.

The five passengers who were quarantined with the new case at Pochentong High School are at risk of transmission and need to be quarantined for an additional 14 days.

The new tally of 306 (62 women and 244 men), include 191 Cambodians, 45 French, 18 Chinese, 13 Malaysians, nine Indonesians, nine Americans, six British, three Vietnamese, three Canadians, three Indians, two Hungarians, one Belgian, one Kazakhstani, one Polish, and one Pakistani. Of them, 295 have been successfully treated and 11 are being treated at two hospitals in Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, the WHO has congratulated the Kingdom for being ranked among the top nations with the best COVID-19 containment and impact management.

Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for Western Pacific, said on Twitter Friday that collective health is based on strong leadership and individual actions.

According to Senegal’s Le Bureau de Prospective Economique report on the COVID-19 Severity Index, Cambodia ranks No. 1 in Asia and No. 3 in the world (out of 166 countries), with the most COVID-19 disease control status and impact.

Vandine said yesterday that the successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic was not accidental, but there were the key factors that pushed Cambodia to achieve proud results.

She attributed Cambodia’s success to good and timely management by the government under Mr Hun Sen.

“Secondly, the existing health care system of Cambodia has the appropriate capacity to enable the Kingdom to respond quickly and effectively to the spread of COVID-19. Thirdly, it is due to the unwavering commitment, hard work, professionalism and high sense of responsibility of health officials, relevant authorities and the armed forces at all levels,” she said.

“Fourthly, it is because of the active participation of the people under the guidance of the government, the Ministry of Health and relevant authorities in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in Cambodia,” she added.

The government has put in place effective measures over the past year to combat COVID-19, including restrictions on entries and exits.

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