The Ministry of Health has granted permission to authorised pharmaceutical import-export companies to import Covid-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as part of response to the more contagious and deadly coronavirus Delta variant in Cambodia.
In a bid to boost the government’s efforts in containing the spread of the virus, health minister Mam Bun Heng issued two separate letters on July 27 giving private firms the green light to import the vaccines and distribute rapid antigen test devices.
One of the letter said authorised companies can import the vaccines and distribute them to all private health services nationwide.
“[Firms] must follow the technical standards regarding transportation and storage of the vaccines to ensure their safety and effectiveness,” he said.
The second letter said authorised firms can sell and distribute Covid-19 antigen rapid test devices already licensed by the ministry to private pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and polyclinics across the country.
Pharmacies must buy only test kits approved by the ministry and can sell them to the general public and medical professionals, though not online.
“Medical professionals and the general public must buy Covid-19 rapid antigen test devices which have registration numbers with the ministry from legitimate pharmacies. They must avoid purchasing them online because these devices need to be stored properly and clearly sourced.
“If they don’t follow these instructions, they may end up with devices that are low quality or even fake,” the minister said.
As of July 26, Cambodia had vaccinated more than 6.83 million people of the targeted adult population of 10 million, or 68.39 per cent.
On July 27, the health ministry reported 39 more cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant, eight of which have spread into community.
Of the other 31 cases, 21 were found in migrant workers returning from Thailand through border checkpoints, four in medical workers and six in local residents who had been in direct contact with those infected with Delta.
The ministry noted that the eight cases that have spread into community were found in local residents who had no contact with migrant workers at all – two in Siem Reap, five in Oddar Meanchey and one in Kampong Thom.
Of the 114 total Delta cases found in Cambodia to date, most were detected in migrant workers returning from Thailand, along with a few cases found in airline passengers.
The Delta cases, especial those with no clear source, are of great concern to health minister Bun Heng, who has renewed his call for people to stay vigilant and adapt their lives to the “new normal” amid Covid-19.
“We have to prevent, control and break the chain of transmission, especially the new variant or other new strains in Cambodia which may eventually be detected,” Bun Heng said, adding that quarantine must be adhered to strictly.
Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said the latest transmissions have been found mostly among youths, which could be due to the fact that they go out and meet their friends inadvisably. She reminded everyone that they must follow preventive measures including the three dos and three donts.
Citing WHO’s update, Vandine said the Alpha variant has been found in 180 countries, while the Beta strain has been transmitted to 130 countries. The Delta variant is found in 125 countries now, while the Gamma variant is found in 72 countries.
“These variants can increase in number from day to day which makes it hard for Cambodia to escape from them as we have already recorded Delta cases on passengers on land and air,” she said, adding that most of Cambodia’s confirmed cases were Alpha cases.