Thousands of Cambodian migrant workers have returned from Thailand in recent weeks, with a total of 82 having tested positive for Covid-19 to date.

Of the 82 workers, 44 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

According to a Ministry of Health press release on January 25, the recoveries included four migrant workers who were discharged from hospital the previous day after their second test came back negative.

As of January 25, the Kingdom had recorded a total of 458 Covid-19 cases, with 49 still being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

Covid-19 vaccines are scheduled to arrive in Cambodia in February with Prime Minister Hun Sen announcing he will be the first to be inoculated to demonstrate their safety and boost public confidence. The jabs will then be administered widely to those belonging to the six prioritised groups.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that as per Hun Sen’s directive all vaccinations will be done on a voluntary basis only.

The first priority group to be inoculated are frontline healthcare workers who regularly interact with patients.

The second group will be civil servants and members of the armed forces because assistance from their ranks may be necessary in order to carry out the vaccination campaign as it expands in scope to reach millions of people.

“Another group are local community leaders and volunteers who will be working together to assist with vaccination efforts and to monitor their communities for any signs of an outbreak while vaccination is ongoing,” she said.

The fourth group consists of the elderly aged 65 or older, and the fifth includes those aged 18 to 64.

An inter-ministerial working group has placed elderly people with underlying conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease or cancer in the fourth group as they are at a high risk of serious complications or death from the virus.

People who are elderly but otherwise in good health are the fifth group.

The sixth group consists of people including drivers for hire, factory workers and migrant workers as all of them have an increased risk of exposure and likelihood of infecting others due to the circumstances of their employment.

“We identified these [six] groups as a first step. They account for 23 per cent of our entire population.

“However, we won’t receive enough vaccines initially to cover everyone in these groups so we have ranked them by order of priority, taking into account the roles they may be required to fill in the nation’s Covid-19 prevention efforts, their chances of exposure and the overall risk to their health if infected,” she said.

Vandine added that those who have previously contracted the disease should still be vaccinated and that those who have been vaccinated already still need to continue following the recommended health measures consistently – including masking, distancing, hand-washing and the quarantining of inbound passengers to Cambodia.