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Chinese vaccines help reinvigorate Cambodia from COVID-19 restrictions

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) — Traffic jam, usually a kind of annoying experience in modern big cities, now signals vigor and hope of the recovering Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia.

It took half an hour more time on Wednesday morning by driving from downtown to the Phnom Penh International Airport, than months ago when the Southeast Asian country struggled to curb COVID-19 with strict restrictions on social and business activities.

With China’s timely and regular vaccine supply during the past months, Cambodia has reached herd immunity earlier than planned and has recently reopened all sectors in the kingdom.

Chheang Lida, a 34-year-old fruit vendor at the Old Market in the Cambodian capital, is swamped with clients on Wednesday as her sales have almost returned to the pre-pandemic era after the country has fully reopened, buoyed by its high vaccination rates.

Selling fresh fruits such as bananas, oranges, persimmons, grapes and strawberries, Lida said sales have recovered after the government allowed wedding ceremonies and religious functions to be resumed, which resulted in the growing demand for fresh fruits.

“During the pandemic restrictions, there was no even a client in an hour, and sales were on the sharp decline, earning only 70 U.S. dollars in revenue a day, but the sales have now recovered around 80 percent, making around 500 dollars in revenue a day,” she told Xinhua.

“I’m elated to see the reopening of all sectors in the country after disruptions caused by COVID-19 for nearly two years,” she said. “We hope that our economy will rebound soon.”

Lida and all of her family members, with the youngest aged five, have been fully vaccinated with two doses of China’s COVID-19 Sinovac vaccine.

“We are totally confident in the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine in protecting us from the COVID-19,” she said.

Cambodia has so far administered at least one dose of vaccines to 14.08 million people, or 88 percent of its 16-million population.

“Cambodia has become one of the most fully COVID-19 vaccinated countries in the region and around the world, that has achieved a solid herd immunity,” Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said at the capital’s airport while receiving a new batch of 2 million doses of China-donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

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“Cambodia’s success in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign is inseparable from China’s vaccine supply,” he added.

The Southeast Asian nation has so far received a total of 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three sources through bilateral procurement, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s COVAX Facility, and donations. Of them, over 90 percent were bought from or donated by China.

Hun Sen said Chinese jabs have protected public health and saved the lives of the Cambodian people, as well as helped restore Cambodia’s economy in the new normal.

“China is a true ironclad friend who always provides timely support to Cambodia in difficult times without any strings attached,” he said.

“China’s vaccine supply to Cambodia and other countries is a testament to China’s commitment to promoting COVID-19 vaccines as the global public goods and to campaigns against COVID-19,” he added.

Yon Saosopheap, a teacher at the Tuol Svay Prey High School in Phnom Penh, said Chinese vaccines have helped Cambodia achieve herd immunity and reopen its borders to all fully vaccinated international travelers.

“They not only help protect people from COVID-19, but also enable the kingdom to reopen its social and economic activities in all sectors, especially in education and tourism sectors,” he told Xinhua.

“China’s help will undoubtedly lift our two countries’ ties to a new high, and we will keep this kind support in mind forever,” he said.

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian said he is pleased to see Phnom Penh has regained its former vigorous scene, as businesses have been reopened, and he hoped that the kingdom’s socio-economic development would recover soon.

“I’d like to reiterate that our assistance to Cambodia will not stop until the pandemic is finally defeated,” he said. “The Chinese people will always stand with the Cambodian people to fight against this pandemic.”

Cambodia reported 51 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, pushing the national total caseload to 119,687, the Ministry of Health said, adding that five new fatalities were confirmed, bringing the overall death toll to 2,881.

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