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Oz stands with Kingdom in Covid fight: diplomat

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Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) receives Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines from Australian deputy ambassador Andreas Zurbrugg on Monday. AKP

Oz stands with Kingdom in Covid fight: diplomat

A senior Australian diplomat commended the Cambodian government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and the actions it took to protect its people and the economy.

Australian deputy ambassador to Cambodia Andreas Zurbrugg said his government will continue to stand with the Kingdom in responding to the global pandemic. He made the remarks during the ceremonial handover of 783,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines donated by Australia to Cambodia on December 26.

The total vaccines donation by Australia will reach 2.35 million doses of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines, but the shipments have been staggered due to supply issues from high global demand.

“I would like to congratulate the Royal Government of Cambodia and its people on the outstanding job you have done with vaccinations for Covid-19.

“From the beginning, the Cambodian government recognised the magnitude of the crisis and took necessary actions to protect its people and the economy. The Ministry of Health and its partner organisations have been at the forefront of a long and tireless campaign to protect the Cambodian people,” he said.

Zurbrugg said Australia is stepping up its support to address the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region and globally.

He said the effort to improve access to Covid-19 vaccines in Cambodia is part of his government’s broader efforts across Southeast Asia and the Pacific that have been undertaken because Australia’s health security is tied to that of countries in the region.

“This most recent assistance builds on our decades of engagement [with Cambodia] in the health sector, including through our Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project for strengthening the Kingdom’s healthcare system,” he said.

According to Zurbrugg, Australia has committed $28 million in aid to Cambodia in a holistic package of support, which includes the vaccines. He said Australia – together with Cambodia’s health ministry, WHO and UNICEF – trained healthcare workers in the Kingdom and provided logistics support and other equipment.

“As we look forward to celebrating the 70th anniversary of Cambodia-Australia diplomatic relations next year, we are committed to securing the safety and prosperity of both of our peoples, our countries and the region,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was on hand to accept the vaccine donation personally, said Cambodia understood from the outset of the crisis that only vaccinations could help the Kingdom control and defeat this deadly disease.

He said that in order for the nation to be resilient enough to live with an endemic Covid-19, the government will beef up the implementation of the recently announced policy plan called the “Strategic Framework and Programmes for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in the New Normal 2021-2023”.

Hun Sen said although the world is now facing off with Omicron, Cambodia will move forward in reopening the country “fearlessly but vigilantly”.

“I would like to request more Australian support for our fight against Covid-19 in the areas of building healthcare capacity, strengthening the public health system, community engagement and safe economic recovery,” he said.

Foroogh Foyouzat, country representative for UNICEF in Cambodia, said the pandemic has proven that the only way to tackle the biggest modern day challenges was through partnerships and that Australia is one of UNICEF’s most important partners in the region.

“Australia’s support doesn’t just provide much-needed vaccines at another critical stage in our fight against the virus, but has also allowed us to support the [Cambodian] government and put in place the cold chain infrastructure and capacities which will benefit the health system here permanently, and enable it to respond more effectively to future challenges,” she said in a press statement on the vaccine arrival.

“We are deeply grateful for Australia’s commitment to supporting Cambodia’s recovery.”

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