Cambodia has reached the number two ranking in the Nikkei Covid-19 Recovery Index – published by the website Nikkei Asia – as of the end of March, largely due to having one of the leading vaccination rates in the world and a “living with Covid-19” strategy that has proven to be effective.

Nikkei Asia is operated by the venerable Tokyo-based Nikkei newspaper that is now in its 145th year as a publisher and is still one of the top sources in Japan for journalism, particularly business news.

Nikkei Asia reported on April 10 that as of March 31 it had ranked Cambodia with a score of 80.5 points – just below the UAE at 85.5 points. The higher the ranking, the closer to recovery from the knock-on effects of the pandemic a country can be considered to be.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, another country that has experienced the tragedy of civil war and genocide in living memory – the African nation of Rwanda – ranked number three after Cambodia, scoring 78 points.

Cambodia’s neighbour to the north, Laos, landed at the bottom of the table, ranked at 121 with just 36 points, Nikkei reported.

Although Cambodia has a very high rate of vaccinations, national Covid-19 vaccination committee head Or Vandine stated that further vaccinations with booster shots will continue regularly on a daily basis for the foreseeable future.

“What’s important to understand is that we know Omicron is transforming itself into yet another variant, which is why it is required that we be vigilant at all times though we are living with Covid-19,” she said.

Separately, the Indian government has committed to providing more than 320,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Cambodia with 200,000 of them set to arrive here on the evening of April 11, while the rest will arrive on April 12 or 13, according to Ministry of Health secretary of state York Sambath.

Sambath said on April 11 that Prime Minister Hun Sen will accept the donation of the vaccines personally in a ceremony at the Peace Palace on April 12.

As of April 10, vaccinations in Cambodia had reached nearly 15 million people out of the total population of around 16 million, for at least one dose administered. More than 14 million people have received their second shots, while the third and fourth doses have reached eight million and four million residents of the Kingdom, respectively.

With vaccination rates reaching numbers that rank among the best in the world along with a drop in daily transmissions and the overwhelming prevalence of the less-deadly Omicron variant here in Cambodia now, Hun Sen declared on April 10 that residents of four provinces – Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear – are no longer legally required to wear masks while in public.

The prime minister stated that the people of those provinces can decide for themselves whether, where and when to wear masks, stating as his rationale that people have to learn to take responsibility for their own health by themselves.

However, the residents of these four provinces must wear masks when they go to other provinces that do not have the same exemption in place, though outsiders visiting the maskless provinces will have to decide for themselves whether, when and where to wear masks.

“I just want to stress to the public that when you leave these four provinces you are once again under a mandatory obligation to wear masks in public and follow the preventive measures of the three do’s and three donts,” he said in an audio address to the nation.

He instructed Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth and health minister Mam Bun Heng to develop documents giving the necessary guidance on this topic for the provincial authorities to be able to easily refer to and follow.

Nevertheless, Hun Sen called on the residents of these four provinces to be mindful of their health and to always get tested should they suspect that they have the disease.

“This is to build resilience and herd immunity, which I think we’ve nearly succeeded at. I also hope that people in the city will not bring disease to rural areas. They really do have to wear masks once they leave these four provinces,” he said.

Kuong Lo, director of Preah Vihear provincial department of health, said on April 11 that his province has not had a confirmed Covid-19 transmission in the last few months. There is currently no Covid-19 patients at their hospital or at other treatment centres.

But he also admitted that it was possible that there have been some number of people whose illness was not very severe and so elected to remain at home rather than seek out treatment.

“The transmission situation in Preah Vihear province has been good because we don’t have new cases here. This is because nearly 100 per cent of people eligible have been vaccinated,” he said, adding that around 80 to 90 per cent of people in his province know prevention measure.

Lo said that if mandatory mask-wearing was done away with and then no new problems arise, that would help the people a lot because they do not have to spend money to buy masks, although they can be obtained very cheaply in bulk.

“I think Prime Minister Hun Sen has made this decision based on the actual situation here in Cambodia, such as the high vaccination rates in these four provinces and these particular provinces are not highly populated,” he said.