Prime Minister Hun Sen received the country’s first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday, the morning after calling for either a travel ban or widespread vaccinations in Preah Sihanouk province amid a rise in Covid-19 cases there.
Health authorities meanwhile announced 31 more cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, including 18 in Preah Sihanouk, while lawmakers on Wednesday asked for the recently arrived AstraZeneca vaccine to be made available for them as 70 percent of the country’s parliamentarians are over 60 and too old to receive the Sinopharm shot.
In a voice message shared by Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine on Wednesday night, Hun Sen suggested two possible courses of action: ban people from traveling out of Preah Sihanouk to other provinces, or undertake widespread vaccinations there.
“It could require hard work to prevent the epidemic [spreading] to other provinces,” Hun Sen said, asking people in the province to voluntarily restrict their travel.
He said there was no plan to lock down the city of Sihanoukville, and goods transport would be allowed to continue.
Most of the transmissions so far were related to casino workers, he added.
Hun Sen received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday morning alongside his wife, Bun Rany, at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, and Deputy Prime Ministers Men Sam An and Hor Namhong also received their first doses Thursday morning during a press conference to roll out the WHO-approved vaccine.
In a letter dated Wednesday, the National Assembly’s general secretariat asked the Health Ministry to make the AstraZeneca vaccine available to all lawmakers, their families and their advisers.
More than 70 percent of the country’s 125 lawmakers were over 60 years old, so they are ineligible for the Sinopharm vaccine, the letter said. The Health Ministry said earlier that only those aged 18 to 59 could receive the Chinese-manufactured vaccine.
Senate spokesperson Mam Bunneang said on Wednesday that all 62 senators were scheduled to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at Calmette Hospital on March 9.