The fight against COVID-19 in Phnom Penh

I. About Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is the political, economic, business, social, tourism, cultural, and diplomatic center. The capital is situated in the south of Cambodia at the river confluence (in Khmer called Chaktomouk): the Mekong, lower Mekong, Tonle Sap, and the Tonle Bassac. According to the census of 2019, the total number of registered residents in Phnom Penh is around 2.13 million. The total population could reach over 3 million during day time.

II. The Outbreak of COVID-19

Phnom Penh reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 13, 2020. The number of confirmed cases slightly increased from mid-March to mid-April. As of 31 May 2020, there were only 30 confirmed cases with 29 had been discharged from hospital and no death so far. The majority of confirmed cases are imported. The City has effectively contained the virus spread in the community through its effective tracing.

As of June 16, 2020, Cambodia has a total of 128 confirmed cases, 57 of which are Cambodians, and 71 are foreign nationals. 125 patients had been discharged from the hospital and no death so far.   

III. Measures in response to combat COVID-19

1-Management Structure

According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Health of Cambodia, adherence to the government’s approach, and the wider society, has taken effective measures to respond to the outbreak of the COVID 19.

The government established two mechanisms to fight COVID 19: National Committee to Combat Covid-19 under the direct leadership of Samdech HUN Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia (Government Decision No. 29, dated 18 March 2020) and the Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 chaired by Minister of Health. This inter-ministerial committee operates with the help of the following working groups:

  • Technical operations and support team
  • Working Group on Education, Training, and Public Relations (responsible for monitoring international information, education, public awareness, and community training and capacity building for health officials …).

The Phnom Penh Administration has also established the Capital Committee for the Control of COVID-19, which is headed by Mr. Khuong Sreng, Governor of Phnom Penh, assisted by the Director of Health, the Chief of Police, the Commander-in-Chief of the Military Police Associations, and affiliated entities as members.

2- Key measures and responses

Since March 2020, the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration, with the participation of relevant stakeholders including health departments and units, the heads of administration of 14 districts have been implementing the following key measures to combat the disease:

  • ­Disseminate education about and COVID 19 awareness to local people by different means including Facebook, radio, TV, voice and text messages, and word-of-mouth, banner, streets, and parks, etc.
  • ­Encourage grassroots, local authorities, youth, and the private sector to jointly launch educational campaigns on prevention of COVID-19 which include hygiene practices (handwashing), mask-wearing, social distance, etc.
  • Set up four in-patient facilities with 540 hospital beds and laboratory
  • Set up Circuit board quarantine 12 and 11 screening centers to control the spread of disease.
  • Suspended all forms of mass gathering, including religious, wedding, sports which can be a source of infection and spread.
  • Temporary close all kinds of game and entertainment centers, casinos, night clubs, pubs, etc. until further notice.
  • Encourage people to stay home and avoid unnecessary outings.
  • Health screening and COVID-19 tests are comprehensive and free of charge for Cambodian nationals
  • Measures to curb the spread of fake news as well as preventing the distribution of counterfeit medical equipment.

IV. Lessons Learned

The National Committee to Combat COVID-19 has provided effective guidance and leadership to the inter-ministerial committee and other relevant capital/provincial committees. These committees have carried out their work and duties accordingly and promptly in response to the epidemic of COVID-19 with public participation.

With the participation and cooperation of all stakeholders and with the support of the people of Phnom Penh, the City has managed to keep COVID-19 community transmission at a low level, COVID-19 positive confirmed cases at a low level, as well as no mortality case. People have become increasingly aware of the effect of this hidden disease and learned quickly how to prevent and protect their family and community through a wide range of methods by practicing personal hygiene (such as handwashing, wearing a mask), social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings and complying with other key guidance/measures from the authorities.

Phnom Penh Administration has noted that the following lessons learned have been key components in fighting against COVID-19:

  1. Measures introduced by the Royal Government and relevant authorities have been implemented effectively and timely.
  2. Active participation of people from all walks of life.
  3. The effective work and tracing by COVID-19 Response Team for sources of infection in the community and timely preventative measures contributed to the successful containment of the pandemic.
  4. Provision of free testing and treatment to all Cambodian nationals.

V. Way Forward

Since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the Kingdom, the Phnom Penh Administration has been playing its role and carrying out its duties actively and responsibly as a sub-national administration as well as a member of the Inter-Ministerial Committee in the fight against the disease. We must continue implementing preventive measures; strengthen the risk management capabilities of local authorities, build capacity of public health systems, and enhance the responsiveness and preparedness for a possible second wave.

We should be very vigilant and focused in high-risk areas include the international airports or international point of entry, the gateways of the inflow of people from abroad. At the same time, we should also monitor the well-being of citizens in the Capital, District and community. The Phnom Penh Administration will continue to implement the measures put forward by Royal Government of Cambodia in the fight against COVID-19 and be ready to join the national and international community in response to the large-scale epidemic of COVID-19. We should not be complacent with our success. We need to learn from our foreign friends their best practice and experience in fighting COVID-19.

(as of May 31, 2020)

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