With Covid-19 infections weighing on public health services in many countries around the world, the head of the Cambodian government and a senior Ministry of Health official renewed calls for people to remain cautious.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said both the ministry and the people had received regular instruction from the head of government on the matter, while the experiences of 2020 and 2021 remained clear in the memory with the New Year on the horizon.

“We must all understand that although we managed to control the spread of Covid-19 well in Cambodia, it has not disappeared. It is still with us.

“And because of the possibility of Covid-19 mutating, we have seen new strains evolve and so we must continue taking precautions,” said Vandine, who is also head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee.

With nations around the world still recording infections, particularly neighbouring countries, Cambodia was detecting Covid-19 cases every day, she added.

“It means we can only be safe when infections die down in neighbouring countries. Cambodia is just one country in the region, so the possibility of infections occurring remains,” Vandine said.

The ministry is finalising the national health strategy plan phase IV for the year ahead, she added, with a focus on reducing death rates related to infectious diseases among Cambodians.

“We don’t just have Covid-19, there are also infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and dengue fever, and others than can occur unpredictably,” she said.

Importantly, she added, the ministry is taking further steps to increase primary health care.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking at a December 26 ceremony marking the official start of a revamp for National Road 41 from Kandal to Kampot provinces, said that while the Kingdom had successfully reopened after the Covid-19 pandemic, it did not mean relaxing protection measures.

“Covid-19 is far from over, and tomorrow I will meet with the Ministry of Health and the Phnom Penh municipal governor for preparations for the opening of a new hospital we have built, one consisting of up to 10,000 beds,” the prime minister said.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government and ministry had relied on private hospitals to care for patients as state-run hospitals were overcrowded.

“At present, as we have no Covid-19 patients, we will have up to 10,000 beds for general patients.

“However, I renew my call for people to maintain Covid-19 protection measures as we do not know whether the virus will mutate,” he said.

The prime minister urged people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 when it was their turn, with more than four million people yet to receive a third dose.

“More than four million people have not yet received a third dose, while others have received a fifth. We do not know whether another outbreak of the virus will occur, so we have to remain properly protected,” Hun Sen said.

The Ministry of Health said that 95.24 per cent of Cambodia’s estimated 16 million population had been vaccinated with at least one Covid-19 dose as of December 25.

More than 10 million people had received a third dose, over 4.7 million a fourth, and more than 1.2 million a fifth, the ministry report added.