Soldiers Called in for Red-Zone Vaccination Drive for 800,000 People

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Defense Minister Tea Banh inspects Covid-19 vaccine storage facilities on February 1, 2021, in a photo posted to his Facebook page on February 5, 2021.
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The Defense Ministry has been put in charge of a red-zone vaccination drive set to begin on Saturday and which aims to inoculate more than 800,000 people in Phnom Penh districts hit hard by Covid-19.

According to the ministry, about 1,500 soldiers, including 450 medics and a 900-strong public-enforcement team, will carry out the campaign with Chinese-supplied vaccines for the 800,000 people, targeting Pur Senchey, Meanchey, Dangkor and Kambol districts.

About 50 soldiers will also work to distribute food around those areas, the ministry said.

Defense Minister Tea Banh emphasized the food-delivery aspect of the mission during a launch ceremony on Friday.

“Samdech has already told me: The first step is to give 10,000 packages of [food], which I really want to give to the really poor. That is necessary,” Banh said, referring to Prime Minister Hun Sen. “This point is very important that we block people from going out, it is necessary. But some people are facing difficulties in their livelihoods, [those] who barely make ends meet. When there is a lockdown, it is difficult.”

Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine also spoke at the ceremony, urging preventative health measures during the vaccination drive to avoid it from becoming a source of Covid-19 transmission.

“We would like to advise all vaccination teams to adhere to the operating standards and techniques of Covid-19 vaccination and to strictly implement Covid-19 protection to ensure their own personal safety as well as that of those who come to be vaccinated,” Vandine said.

Within the target area, garment factory worker Khuon Sokhon said she hoped the soldiers would be able to expedite the deliveries of food.

She had been running out of food and sending messages to the government’s Telegram group for two weeks without any response, she said.

Her landlord had given her 5 kg of rice, and she had about 1 kg left, the 33-year-old in Dangkao district said.

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, said food aid and financial help were urgent alongside public health measures.

“In order to effectively prevent Covid-19, the state must consider both the economy as well as the safety of Covid-19 infections,” Pov said.

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