Cambodia hails Beijing for helping curb COVID

A batch of coronavirus vaccines donated by China arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport in March. (LI LAI / XINHUA)

Cambodia's cooperation with China has been vital for the Southeast Asian country in achieving its COVID-free status, officials and experts said.

In a statement on June 7, Cambodia's Health Ministry said the country was free of COVID-19 since the recovery of its last patient, according to Xinhua News Agency.

"I am very happy that COVID has been controlled," said Mey Kalyan, chairman of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute. He said getting the virus under control in the country has allowed people to continue working and making a living.

Mey told China Daily that Cambodians are proud of the country's success. "All this happened because of the close cooperation with the Chinese government," he said. "The Chinese government is very generous, very kind and very helpful as a friendly country to help us."

As of June 7, no new COVID-19 cases had been reported in the country for 31 consecutive days, the statement said. Since the pandemic began, Cambodia has reported 136,262 cases-one of the lowest totals in Southeast Asia-and 3,056 deaths.

Or Vandine, secretary of state and spokeswoman of the Cambodian Health Ministry, attributed the country's success in controlling the pandemic to the government's leadership and the effectiveness of COVID-19 jabs.

Most of the vaccines that Cambodia used in its national immunization campaign were from China, which also provided equipment and sent medical experts including a traditional Chinese medicine team, to help the country fight the pandemic.

As of Monday, 89.4 percent of Cambodia's 16 million people had been fully vaccinated with two inoculations. About 58 percent have received a third dose, while 16.7 percent got a fourth dose. On June 9, Cambodia started offering the fifth dose of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the think tank Asian Vision Institute in Phnom Penh, said China was the first country to help Cambodia in the early days of the pandemic. Chinese vaccines accounted for over 80 percent of the total used in the nation.

"Vaccines are the most strategic weapons against the pandemic, and China is the most important strategic partner for Cambodia's vaccination strategy," said Chheang, adding that the early and fast rollout defined Cambodia's success.

"Without the help from China, Cambodia could not have achieved the status of a COVID-free country," said Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh.

High vaccination rates

With high vaccination rates, Cambodia has fully resumed socioeconomic activities since November, with its international borders reopened to fully vaccinated tourists without quarantine, Matthews said. He noted that daily life in Cambodia has largely been restored to what it was before COVID-19 hit.

Cambodia attracted nearly 250,000 international visitors between January and April, up 191 percent year-on-year, according to its Tourism Ministry.

China and Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding on June 1 on the construction of a COVID-19 vaccine packaging factory in the Southeast Asian nation.

Citing a voice message on Facebook by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Khmer Times reported that the participating Cambodian company is set to produce 35 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per year from 2024 to 2026 with assistance from Chinese partner Sinovac.