With celebrations for the upcoming Lunar and Khmer New Years just around the corner, the Ministry of Health advises authorities across the country to introduce measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and avian flu. It also calls for increased education to reduce people’s chances of suffering from food or rice wine poisoning.

In a January 17 letter, minister Mam Bun Heng advised the public to make sure that their Covid-19 vaccinations are up to date.

He warned that the pandemic is far from over, especially given the spread of the XBB or XBB.1.5 sub-variants of Omicron, and the rising number of the ill and deceased in several countries.

The health minister reminded the public of the importance of following preventive measures.

Bun Heng also expressed his concerns at the risk of avian flu spreading during the celebrations.

“The local authorities across the country should carefully monitor all farms and markets – especially those selling live birds. Measures should be implemented that will prevent outbreaks of bird flu in their localities,” he said.

“They should also carry out inspections of rice wine producers, to ensure that they are not adding methanol to their products.

“We encourage the general public to follow this simple advice to protect their health and that of their loved ones. We want everyone to enjoy the upcoming holidays, and the best way to do this is to avoid becoming ill,” he said.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine also calls on the public to work together to prevent another outbreak of Covid-19.

She also offers advice on how to avoid alcohol poisoning, following a recent tragic case in Banteay Meanchey province which resulted in several deaths.

“Let me be very clear. You absolutely must not mix rice wine with methanol – or any other agent – to make it stronger. This could have irreversible effects on the drinkers,” she said.

Vandine also reminds them to practise safe storage measures of food, and cook it properly to avoid diarrhoea or dysentery.

The ministry’s guidelines include washing hands frequently with soap after touching birds or other livestock, avoiding crowded markets wherever possible, keeping cooked and uncooked foods separate and cooking food thoroughly. People should always check that water is clean – not just for drinking, but for washing vegetables and cooking as well.