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COVID-19 success story

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
The Kingdom’s first virus patient and his family celebrate his recovery at Preah Sihanouk Provincial Referral Hospital. Fresh News

Amid the global pandemic, Health Minister Mam Bun Heng has told the World Health Assembly about Cambodia’s success in treating COVID-19 patients, adding no new cases have been detected in the Kingdom in over a month.

However, he urged for preventive measures to be put in place against a possible second wave of the virus.

The 73rd Session of the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly being held from Monday till Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland is being held by video conferencing among representatives of WHO member states.

Speaking to the assembly on Monday, Mr Bun Heng said since January 27, after the first coronavirus patient – a Chinese tourist – was detected and until May 16 when the last patient had recovered, Cambodia had been working hard to treat cases and prevent the outbreak of the virus.

“Cambodia has been working hard to quickly respond to the pandemic effectively and treat all 122 COVID-19 patients detected in the Kingdom and achieved a recovery rate of 100 percent Mr Bun Heng said. “Although the Kingdom has no more patients receiving treatment, has no new cases and recorded no death, the virus situation in many countries in the region and world has still not abated.”

He appealed to all Cambodians, especially medical officials, to continue to implement preventive measures, noting that so far there is no specific vaccine against the virus which has been recognised by WHO.

“Regarding the rapid response to COVID-19, Cambodia has adhered to measures taken by the government to protect society,” Mr Bun Heng said, adding that the Kingdom also created the National Committee for Combatting COVID-19.

The committee was established in March and is headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen with five deputy heads and 40 members.

It is responsible for setting national policies and strategies to fight against the coronavirus; lead the implementation of the strategic plan for the prevention, control and management of the pandemic; and respond to issues of political, economic and social aspects at all levels.

The government on April 2 also established the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Combating COVID-19, which headed by Mr Bun Heng.

The commission comprises 25 senior government officials from various ministries. Royal Cambodian Army commander Lieutenant General Hun Manet, and National Police Chief General Neth Savoeun are among the commission’s seven vice presidents.

Mr Bun Heng said Cambodia is implementing its master plan to prevent COVID-19, including putting in place protective measure to prevent an outbreak of the virus in the community.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng speaks via video conferencing at the World Health Assembly meeting. MoH

“Cambodia has created and is implementing rapid response plans against COVID-19 by following the instructions from the World Health Organization,” he said, explaining that these include planning and situation management, monitoring and evaluating risks, organising laboratory tests, treatment and border management to prevent imported cases.

“Cambodia is a small country but has a big heart, which was globally recognised through the rescue operation of passengers from the MS Westerdam cruise ship in February 2020,” Mr Bun Heng added.

The MS Westerdam owned by the Holland America Line was turned away from Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines due to fears over the spread of COVID-19 before being allowed to docked at Sihanoukville.

The cruise ship arrived at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port on February 13 with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board and was reported to be running low on supplies.

Mr Bun Heng said Cambodia “fully supports” WHO measures in response to the pandemic outbreak and joins hand with many other countries as well as development partners to fight the virus.

He said the Health Ministry has strengthened medical services in public health centres and Cambodian frontline doctors have also sacrifice a lot to fight the outbreak.

“So far, none of the Cambodian doctors have been infected by COVID-19 but they need to remain on high alert,” Mr Bun Heng said.

The Finance Ministry has also reported the government has set aside approximately $400 million from the budget to be used in COVID-19 responses.

To avoid an outbreak, the government also ordered the temporary closure of schools, nightclubs, cinemas, casinos, gyms and fitness centres as well as massage parlours and spas and people have been urged to avoid gathering in public.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said yesterday despite having no new cases, Cambodia remains at risk of a second wave of infection. She said people should not throw caution to the wind.

Her warning comes amid reports of people gathering in large numbers, including holding various types of celebrations.

Phnom Penh municipal administration has also warned that any restaurants which do not follow health guidelines would be temporarily closed until they comply with regulations.

The warning was made after the City Hall noted that some people are ignoring safety guidelines because they no longer fear getting infected.

“To prevent a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Health appeals to all people to follow its instructions on preventive measures,” Ms Vandine said. “You must change your habit and behaviour for a new normal in life.”

“Please don’t think that COVID-19 has permanently gone in Cambodia,” she added. “We have successfully prevented an outbreak in the community but our country is still at risk of a second wave of infection.”

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