Cambodia backs vaccinations as COVID-19 cases skyrocket | Voice of America
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA – Amid rising cases of coronavirus infections emerging from a strict COVID lockdown, Cambodia is basing its hopes on a vaccination rollout that will help the country reach collective immunity, even as the country faces unique challenges that could hamper this effort.
The number of daily cases hit a record 1,130 on Wednesday, far more than in April, when severe closures, bans on the sale of alcohol and inter-provincial travel were imposed.
Cambodia, however, like most developing countries, faces a range of issues that are not generally associated with richer countries in the West, particularly overcrowding in the capital, Phnom Penh, where several people rent. often a bedroom, in some cases a bed, to find accommodation for a few hours of sleep, far from the hubbub outside.
Bradley Murg, senior advisor to the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said VOA residents here just don’t have the space, security or access to health services and supermarkets like those from leafy suburbs to western cities in countries such as the United States or Australia.
“In a very densely populated city like Phnom Penh, it is incredibly difficult to effectively implement a lockdown, even with a whole-of-government approach,” he said.
“There will naturally be challenges in light of the level of development, in light of the daily needs of the population and so on,” he added.
“At the end of the day, a permanent lockdown or a long-term lockdown is just not a feasible strategy in Cambodia or Phnom Penh in particular.”
The closure of markets has led to food shortages and price hikes as authorities struggle to enforce closures after dividing the capital into yellow, orange and red zones, depending on the number of cases and transmissions – with zones red containing the greatest risks.
Restrictions have eased, but schools, bars, gyms and many other businesses remain closed, while restaurant opening hours have been reduced with strict social distancing and other health measures in place.
Hang Sokunthea, scholar and author of I am a girl, a book on women’s empowerment in Cambodia, said life during the pandemic was tough for the poor.
“A lot of poor families live very close to each other, this is where many red areas were, where they live together, and then they spread the COVID infection even faster,” she told VOA .
Plus, she said, “without the market, without having the living income, they just can’t really make a living,” she said.
The situation gave rise to a cat-and-mouse game between the police and the vendors, Hang Sokunthea said, adding, “they were just selling anything on the streets, even with the police chasing them.” .
Keo Savady is a small business selling clothes online and, like many of Cambodia’s burgeoning middle class, is also feeling the pinch after losing her job at the Hard Rock Café in Phnom Penh.
“The bad thing is that I just started my new online business, a small online business, and it is not working because of the situation, COVID-19 is not that good,” she said. , adding: “Me and my family, some of them lost their jobs, so we had to find a smaller room.
Cambodia had emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic in its first year, but that changed on February 20 when, according to authorities, two Chinese women bribed the quarantine, went out dancing and spread the disease.
Since then, the number of confirmed cases has increased from less than 500 to more than 50,000 with more than 44,143 recoveries and 602 deaths.
However, Cambodia is ranked second, after Singapore, in its vaccination rollout among the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations after obtaining around 11 million doses of Sinopharm and Sinovac from China.
It says a total of 20 million doses will be secured by August, while funding from Australia and the United States has provided access to the COVAX facility and AstraZenica vaccinations.
“When you put Singapore against Cambodia in terms of level of development, level of infrastructure, etc., it is truly remarkable that Cambodia has had this level of success in its whole-of-government campaign to roll out vaccinations as quickly as possible. possible, “Murg said. .
“The kingdom is on track to meet its goals and this is a story that has not received the attention it deserves,” he added.
Almost 18% of Cambodia’s population of 16.5 million have been fully immunized with two doses, while a quarter of its population has received a single dose.
Cambodia hopes to achieve collective immunity with 10 million people vaccinated by the end of the year and it wants to reopen its tourism industry in the fourth quarter to fully vaccinated tourists.