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Learning lessons from coping with pandemic

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Testing a man for COVID-19. Supplied

Government’s National Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations (NDIR), in the partnership with the national think tanks, the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), and the Asia Vision Institute (AVI) held a policy dialogue on lessons learned from COVID- 19 mitigation and management in Cambodia.

It was very timely and of utmost relevance at a time when the whole world is struggling to deal with the pandemic, and the policy dialogue was a new step for the institute because it is not all about academia and rhetoric, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn.

Sokhonn added that the health crisis and the climate crisis are the two most striking illustrations of this. That is why, for this first policy dialogue, it seemed to us entirely appropriate to share our original experience in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In my view, it is about making Cambodia’s voice heard in the international arena. No country has a monopoly on knowledge nor of the truth,” he said.

He added that Cambodia clearly offers a model of success in terms of controlling the pandemic and the ability to prevent its spread, the mobilisation of resources and assistance from friendly countries and international institutions, in particular guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). We have had no COVID-19-related deaths, no imposed lockdown and just a ban on a limited number of activities.

Or Vandine, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, said that Cambodia is still in the process of fighting COVID-19. She added that the situation of COVID-19 in Cambodia is  alarming. She said that at present, Cambodia is still near the red line.

“If we cross the red line, the disease will be transmitted to the community. But now we are not in that situation yet, but be prepared and be alert in order to prevent passing the red line to community transmission,” she said.

“We have to change our behaviour, how are we going to live normally, but a new normal life. Now we [the government] are preparing for the future as we continue the strengthening of our healthcare system to prepare for any future outbreak,” she said.

“We still continue our journey and still live with the presence of COVID-19 because we cannot lock down our country or ban everything because it will leave the Cambodian economy dead. Therefore, the government is looking at ways how we can adjust our safety health measures for our daily life for any business sector. That is why the upcoming announcement will be made over which
businesses will be opened, but step-by-step,” Vandine said.

Mey Kalyan, Chair of the CDRI Board of Directors, said that the Cambodian government has taken action well and handled well the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Kingdom. But he said that all the institutions have to further strengthen the capacity because the virus is still there.

“We have to handle how to live with the virus. It means we have to strengthen and improve our institutions, medical system and to set up the virus-response mechanism,” he added. “No life, no economy. No economy, hard life,” Kalyan said.

He added that Cambodia has to possess self-reliance. It has to think about its strengths and weaknesses. It means that what we can do, we have to do, but what we cannot do we have to depend on others to do.

“We have to prepare ourselves for the future. If we see a strong area, we have to make it stronger. We have to think and improve our agriculture, SMEs [small and medium enterprises] – the local economy – medical and public health institutions, science, technology and innovation and education” he said.

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