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Vaccine gift shot in the arm for ties with India

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Prime Minister Hun Sen poses with Indian ambassador to Cambodia Devyani Khobragade at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. SPM

Vaccine gift shot in the arm for ties with India

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that despite the open “new normal” Cambodia enjoys, people should bear in mind that many countries had not been as fortunate and still unable to fully resume socio-economic activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The prolonged nature of this pandemic means there is always the chance of a recurrence, which could drive a socio-economic crisis. With this in mind, I urge increased vaccinations that will build herd immunity – the most appropriate and effective response,” he said.

The premier made the remarks at the April 12 ceremonial handover of 200,000 COVISHIELD vaccines, the first batch of the 325,000 doses pledged by the Indian government for Cambodia.

With a proactive spirit, and dedication to finding the vaccines and launching the national vaccination campaign in February 2021, Cambodia achieved herd immunity in a little over eight months.

Hun Sen said this splendid achievement allowed Cambodia to reopen the country in all sectors on November 1, 2021, with the government managing to maintain normal socio-economic activities ever since – despite the threat posed by the community outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus variant early this year.

He also took the time to remind people to maintain preventive health measures during the three-day Khmer New Year holiday.

Hun Sen thanked India for the vaccines, saying he regarded the country as a compassionate friend of Cambodia.

He said India’s contributions since 1981 – after the end of the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime – played a significant part in the Kingdom’s socio-economic recovery through humanitarian assistance and support in trade and culture, as well as financial lending in both bilateral and multilateral frameworks.

“As a result, Cambodian-Indian relations have grown remarkably, albeit with a slight decline due to the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.

“I encourage further strengthening of the friendship and the promotion of cooperation between Cambodia and the members of the Quad Initiative, but especially between Cambodia and India – in terms of trade, investment, information technology, relaxation of travel requirements and connections through direct flights, and the development of tourism,” he added, referring to the quadrilateral partnership between Australia, India, Japan and the US to increase vaccine supply and support effective delivery in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indian ambassador to Cambodia Devyani Khobragade said the provision of the vaccines was a gesture of India’s good will to Cambodia and its push for practical cooperation to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Cambodians can now gather without restrictions and economic activities are in full swing. We are grateful for the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has worked tirelessly to lead the health ministry’s response to Covid-19 in Cambodia,” she said.

She added that the Cambodian government deserved praise for the success of its unprecedented vaccination campaign.

The Indian government has promised 325,000 vaccine doses under the Quad Initiative to Cambodia. These vaccines are a true testament to the friendship and solidarity between Cambodia, India and the other members of the initiative, including the US, Japan and Australia, she added.

Ministry of Health secretary of state York Sambath said on April 11 that the second batch of 125,000 doses was due to arrive on April 14.

“Through our partners, and through COVAX and Chinese governmental assistance, we have received more than 73 million doses of vaccines. We will continue to receive vaccines until late 2022 – 7.5 million from COVAX and 15 million from China,” she said.

She added that more than 11 million doses are currently in stock, with three million being administered throughout the country.

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