How should Cambodia respond to Covid-19

AKP, 18 March 2020

Making a move with critical preparedness, readiness and response actions is the only way to deal with pandemic diseases.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health of Cambodia announced that there were 21 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in one day- making the total number of confirmed cases to 33. Most of the cases are imported cases. The latest cases are mostly linked to the religious gathering at mosque in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.

It needs to be cautious that although the community transmission has not yet been serious in the country, according to what we have learned, there is an increasing risk of having a spike of the number of infections in coming days or weeks. When the community transmission starts, it is more difficult to control and manage.

Since early this week, the Cambodian government has taken some concrete steps to contain and mitigate Covid-19 pandemic in the country such as forming an inter-ministerial committee to specifically deal with the disease and imposing travel restrictions and quarantine policy.

Other measures include closing the schools, suspending religious gatherings and the operations of KTV and cinemas, and boosting public awareness campaign on social distancing and maintaining personal and community hygiene.

The risk of not taking action is really high. A whole-of-government approach is required. The countries that move fast and take bold decisions tend to be more effective in containing and mitigating the pandemics.

Sreytouch Vong wrote in the Policy Brief of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI) that, “addressing the Covid-19 crisis requires cooperation at the global, regional and country levels. At the country level, cross-sectoral collaborations-where relevant stakeholders’ roles and scope of their contributions to the prevention and control of the virus outbreak are clearly determined- are necessary”.

The World Health Organisation has done a commendable job in Cambodia in terms of information and knowledge sharing, provision of technical expertise and critical resources, and helping the public to understand the situation and take necessary preventive measures.

Massive testing is necessary. The Director General of WHO said, “you cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test. Test every suspected case,”

“This is the defining global health crisis of our time. The days, weeks and months ahead will be a test of our resolve, a test of our trust in science, and a test of solidarity. Crises like this tend to bring out the best and worst in humanity,” he added.

Covid-19 pandemic is testing the leadership and institutional capacity of the Cambodian government as well as the social capital and resilience of Cambodian people. The legitimacy of the government is at stake too.

A blame game is not a solution. Togetherness is the solution.

The only way to overcome this crisis is to work together. We need to prove the strength of humanity and the power of love. No one should be left behind in this fight against Covid-19. We need to take care of those who are infected or vulnerable to be infected. We need to ensure the safety and a sense of security for all.

We need to support and motivate our medical staff who work around the clock to save people’s lives. We need to protect ourselves and our community from being exposed to the virus. We should stay united and act calmly, such as avoiding buying panic.

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