Three Agendas of the Cabinet Meeting
Today, the Council of Ministers convened a plenary session to pass the agenda of (1) the draft law on financial management for 2022, (2) the draft budget settlement for management in 2020, and (3) other issues, requesting the approval of the Council of Ministers on the ASEAN Protocol draft law regarding the strengthening of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms. As before, the issue as such in relation to the adoption of the ASEAN Protocol, I ask the Council of Ministers to sign and send it to the National Assembly. There are many works to carry out this week. Next week, with the National Assembly meeting to pass the amendment of the Constitution, the by-elections, we will have a three-day ASEAN meeting, at which time Cambodia will receive the hammer of ASEAN chairmanship. As far as I know, this hammer has arrived in Phnom Penh because it cannot be sent online. It must be here (to prepare) for Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2022.
Living with COVID-19 … Resuming Previously Canceled Programs
By November, we still have works to do. I would also like to inform you that in the course of learning to live with COVID-19, we have to have person to person meeting here. We will meet in person wherever and whenever possible, and when the possibility is not there, we meet by Zoom. This week, I held two Zoom meetings with the provincial/municipal governors and the anti-COVID-19 commission to discuss some issues. My next step is to get the Ministry of Land Management and Urban Planning inaugurated, set for November 8, to resume preparation. If we are still in the cave, when we let the students go to school, it does not look good and it does not fit the chain of work.
Next, we need to check some other programs that we have canceled, such as the inauguration of the Cambodia-China Stung Trang-Krouch Chhmar Friendship Bridge, the inauguration of achievements in Sihanoukville, which we have done a lot and spent a lot of money […]. Programs postponed in the past, we can reorganize them as His Excellency Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports already announced that from this November, the schools are to reopen. If we do not open everything in general, economic death may be more difficult than death by COVID-19 […]
Examine Possibility of Reciprocal Principle with Thailand on Tourism
I would also like to ask His Excellency Thong Khon to check (on this matter). I received a list (of countries) from the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Tourism, Sochetra, that the Thai side has submitted a list of 46 countries, including three ASEAN countries: Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia, whose citizens can enter and exit Thailand. If it is the case, we must figure out reaching this principle of reciprocation with Thailand. Why do that? Let me give you a scoop for consideration. Some countries do not have air relations with us. They (cannot come and go) since we ourselves are closed because the time is too contagious. When people came from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, there were infections. As of now, we have direct flights from Singapore, China and Korea.
If Thailand starts to implement (this policy), we can start to have a principle of reciprocity with Thailand. We may go into quarantine while going to Thailand. When the Thais come, they also have to do quarantine. In this sense, we can start having direct flight again. For example, while tourists arrived and are welcome in Thailand, they may come to Cambodia because we have a common VISA policy for two countries. Thus, it is possible that Thai tourists and investors are coming to Cambodia and tourists from other countries who came to Thailand can visit Cambodia too. Let us consider that issue to seize the opportunity we have.
Reopening Air Routes with Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines Considered
We are looking at the possibility of reopening air routes with Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta or any particular location in Indonesia and the Philippines with Cambodia. We have done a good job with our airport, and we have reduced the amount of time for quarantine, which could be sources of attraction and will lead to the reopening of safe and vaccination tourism. This is just a thought to give us a vision for the economic process that we need to discuss today.
I have seen and learnt the experience after the (Buddhist ritual of) Pchum Ben festivity. (We) allowed people to go places and then there was no explosion (of infection). In other words, COVID-19 infection does not rise. The experience is therefore a clue for us to re-open schools and to re-open businesses. The impacts so far have been on agriculture and industry, which are now in full operation. As for the service sector, which provides income and employment for our people, has weakened from the impacts of anti-COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
85% of Population Vaccinated
… Many countries have achieved their vaccination plans, and especially in Cambodia, we have a coverage rate of up to 85% for a population of 16 million. I received a report sent to me from HE Prak Sokhon that in Thailand, it seems they have reached a figure of 72 million people. I was not sure. 72 million is more than the number of Thai population. It must perhaps include our Cambodian workers in Thailand. Now, we can hardly find people over the age of 18 in the ten million group for vaccination, as our census puts the number at more than 10.8 million. We may ask where these people are. They may be in Thailand, in South Korea, or any given foreign countries. That is why I insist that we have to take the rate of injection against the 16 million people. Worldometers however puts us at 17 million already, while our statistics rests at 16 million 8 hundred thousand people.
What wondered me is that we have now accomplished (vaccinating) children from 6 to 12 years of age more than those at the age between 12 to 16 years […] (we have vaccinated) 99.67 percent of those the 10 million people of 18 years of age and over. For 1,969,931 children aged between 12 and 18, 90.53% of them vaccinated. For children between 6 and 12-year-olds, 99.91 percent injected. That is strange. Where do the children aged 12 to 18 go? […] The group can go with their parents and family to work in Thailand. Their number could have been more than what we counted. Statistically, only 9% more we will accomplish 100% of vaccination and there are more children to vaccinate.
Only Infected Persons Taken for Treatment, No Lockdown Anymore
For us, the current vaccination coverage rate is 85.27 percent in general, which is one of the highest number of vaccinated countries in the world. It is about time now to solve long-term problems. Our biggest loss is in education as children and people in general could not go on with their studies. Human resource training is our main goal and it hits with a problem. From now on, the way we proceed is, for example, when a factory has two or three infected people, to take the infected persons to hospital for treatment. We do not close the whole factory. Previously, when there were infected people in a factory, we closed the factory. We closed the market when we found infected traders. We do not do that anymore. We only take those who are (COVID-19) positive to the hospital, spray disinfectants to the areas and let them go on with businesses. We do the same for schools. Infected students are to go for treatments. Uninfected ones, fully vaccinated, go on with their studies.
Anyone in Doubt, Test Yourself
We also do the same for those who may need the (COVID-19) test. In the past, we forced people to take tests because at that time we did not have vaccines and/or vaccinate enough … When you find out the persons in doubt are negative, we turn back to 14 days before […] there is no need to do that anymore. Previously, in one village, three people infected, we quarantined the whole village. We now entrust the responsibility to each individual in the family. If you find symptoms suspicious, they may seek help with test. We no longer order tests anymore (by) locking down the village or factory for tests. Anyone with doubts can come and take the tests. If the test is positive, but the symptoms are normal, give him/her medicine to go home for treatment. If the symptoms are sickness, we take him to the hospital.
No More Sampling of Corpses outside/in Hospital
The Ministry of Health announced yesterday about taking no more samples of bodies that died outside the hospital or inside the hospital but died outside the framework of COVID-19. Previously, when someone died at home, we sent specialists to test for COVID-19. Whoever died, s/he died because of all COVID-19 from the rapid test because what is the rapid test device for […] it is not a test for diabetes or any neurological disease, it is a test to find COVID-19 […] sometime did the test on the body is 90 years old […]. There is a need to distinguish between death by the real COVID-19 and those for other reasons … This is what we have learnt gradually for our experience in managing (the infectious disease). In general, we managed well and the provinces met and discussed with me. We listened to each other on how to manage and solve problems involved, the case of corpses included.
Today we start working directly from person to person. On October 25, the National Assembly will convene the session to adopt the amendments of the Constitution and the by-election of members of the government. I will go to the parliament […] we are working directly person to person. We start working in person in all frameworks. Where there is a suspicion, let us conduct a rapid test and so on. Where there is a need for PCR to perform analysis, we do not prohibit it. Let us protect each family or individual institution to ensure safety in the workplace […]
Now each person knows how to do it (rapid test). I just do not dare to swab my nose myself […] I did not do a rapid test. I did the test with my PCR […] Indonesia, infection rate has fallen from more than 120,000 people to a few hundred a day – 600 to 700 people – and it has been for 10 days […] at the same time in Singapore yesterday, more than 3,000 people were infected and 18 died. This morning, more than 3,000 people were infected and 16 died […]
As long as there is no safety in any one country, we are not safe. However, when there is an economic opening in Thailand, there is tourism in Thailand, as (Thailand has) put Cambodia (in the group of countries to enter Thailand) without taking obliged quarantines, we must take a reciprocal approach. If Cambodians go to Thailand without being in quarantines, we also have to let Thais come without quarantines too. We are observing this relation with the reciprocity principle. This is my introductory statement. Now, I invite (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance) HE Aun Pornmoniroth to introduce the draft law on finance for management./.