Pandemics are disease epidemics that spread from person to person as a result of human-to-human transmission. Many medical texts do not define the term “pandemic”. However, some key characteristics of pandemics, including wide geographic spread, disease movement, novelty, severity, high attack rates and explosiveness, minimal population immunity, infectiousness, and contagiousness, can help us better understand the concept if we compare and contrast them.1

The U.S. Embassy announced the arrival in Cambodia of the first batch of what will be 1,060,100 total doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine – a donation from the people of the United States to the people of Cambodia. Photo by U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, taken on 30 July 2021. Under the license CC BY-ND 2.0.

Pandemic’s features

A pandemic is distinguished by the following characteristics:

  • Wide geographic spread: the extension over large geographic areas; for instance, coronavirus is affecting 222 countries and territories.2
  • Disease movement: In addition to the geographic spread, most definitions of pandemic refer to disease movement or dissemination that can be tracked from one location to another.3 An example of the disease movement includes the widespread person-to-person caused by respiratory viruses, such as coronavirus, which infected around three million people worldwide.4
  • Novelty: refer to the new disease or at least associated with novel variants of an existing organism.
  • Severity: the word pandemic has been frequently used to describe severe or fatal infections than it has been used to describe minor diseases. The case-fatality ratio is used to determine severity.
  • High attack rates and explosiveness: pandemics are distinguished by their rapid spread and high attack rate. Influenza H1N1, Ebola, and COVID-19 are examples. However, if the transmission is extensive and non-explosive, it is not considered a pandemic.
  • Minimal population immunity: The word pandemic is less usually used to describe an illness that appears to be non-infectious. Pandemic is contagious, meaning it may spread from one person to another. This transfer might be direct (from one person to person) or indirect (from one person to vector to person).5

COVID-19 Dashboard

The Ministry of Health (MoH) reported with World Health Organization (WHO) on January 27, 2020, that the first case of COVID-19 has been found in Cambodia. On January 23, 2020, a 60-year-old guy returned to Cambodia on a direct flight from Wuhan, China.6 Cambodia had recorded zero deaths and just 400 cases as of January 2021. Its early success has been called into question. They point to aspects that aided the country’s success, such as the swift and effective measures implemented. In late February, the country was reported by a new wave of community outbreaks. On March 11, 2021, Cambodia recorded its first official death from the pandemic.7 The COVID-19 infected cases, recovered, active cases, death cases, imported cases, and vaccination can be found on Open Development Cambodia‘s COVID-19 Dashboard.8

Socio-economic impacts of COVID-19

Socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on Cambodia: the pandemic has a variety of direct and indirect impacts on social and economic sectors since infectious epidemics may quickly cross borders and undermine economic and regional stability.9

Households impacts

Based on the survey done by the World Vision Cambodia Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Kampong Chhnang, and Phnom Penh, the coronavirus, for example, has numerous impacts on vulnerable households in Cambodia as the following:

  • Reduce livelihood opportunities are fast creating more food insecurity: almost ¾ have lost their primary source of income or have seen it reduced, especially in Phnom Penh. About 95% of respondents reported that their income had been lost or reduced whereas 70% in the province. People could cover food 50% (46% in Phnom Penh), health care or medicine 31% (12% in Phnom Penh), loan repayments 28% (15% in Phnom Penh), and rent 13%.
  • Too many challenges prevent children from continuing distance learning: 1/3 of the children are not continuing to learn during school closure because of several challenges such as no learning material 36%, no access to devices 39%, lack internet access 59%, and parents/caregivers do not have time to support their children 47%. Only 61% of the respondents reported that they have learning material at home.
  • An important deterioration of the mental health status of the respondents: more than 20% of adults have a mental problem while 80% feel more hopeless, depressed, and stressed. More than 70% of children feel angrier, afraid, or hopeless.
  • Increased use of humiliating and physical punishment: more than 20% used violence to discipline children since the beginning of COVID-19.
  • Increased risks of online abuse against children: 13% of the children have already experienced some form of online abuse or violence.10

COVID-19 and media

The internet users have increased rapidly from 9.7 million in January 2020 to 15.5 million in March 2021 (an increase of 60%). Rising online purchasing and online education are the significant causes.11

The government has made extensive use of social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Telegram, etc. to offer daily updates on the COVID-19 cases, measures, and associated information to control the spread of the pandemic.12 Facebook, television, village officials, billboards/posters, and commune councils/chiefs were the primary information routes and sources via which people learned about COVID-19. Although Facebook is the main source of information (85%), only 32% saw Facebook as a trustworthy source. The core messages that the people learned from sources of information are handwashing, keeping a safe distance (1.5m), covering coughs/sneezes, avoiding touching one’s face, cooking food thoroughly, seeking care for fever/cough, keeping distance from the sick, stay home, and others. However, the percentage of people who think of each measure as effective is various such as avoiding crowds 76%, thorough cooking of food 72%, safe distance 67%, cover cough 65%, sneeze into elbow 62%, handwashing 62%, and not touching face 57%.13

Pandemic’s measures and preventions

Cambodia is working closely with international and local partners to respond to COVID-19. The government and its allies are attempting to preserve public health and save lives while minimizing the pandemic's social and economic consequences. The current pandemic situation is addressed to further plan for the outbreaks. The core public health response has been fundamental to Cambodia's response plan for reducing the spread of COVID-19, including case detection, isolation, contact tracing, quarantine, and treating people who have tested positive for COVID-19.14 The government had implemented restricted measures such as closing the schools,15 restricting international travel,16 limiting gathering,17 withdrawing Khmer New Years’ holiday schedules,18 and restricting traveling between provinces and districts.19 With the strong efforts to combat the pandemic, the government with support from WHO and partners has developed and been implementing the National Master Plan for COVID-19 to control the transmission of the pandemic.20 Through the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19, the UN system in Cambodia is completely dedicated and has taken steps to help the government in preparedness and responses.21 Cambodia has engaged national and provincial public health emergency management systems to supervise the COVID-19 response in a coordinated manner. The government also improves the capacity of healthcare facilities to offer the clinical care required by the Ministry of Health and WHO.22 On 31 March 2021, the Ministry of Health issued the Master Plan for COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Nationwide which set up the strategies, actions, and procedures to be implemented to promote COVID-19 vaccination in a nationwide manner timely, effectively, transparency, and accountability.23

Roles of local governments during the pandemic

The roles of local government commonly include the following:

  • Increasing the level of local public health services: providing emergency treatment, increasing current health facilities, increasing the testing volume, and securing medical supplies and equipment.
  • Infection prevention, epidemiology of illnesses, and infection tracking: raising awareness, enforcing social distancing and other measures, implementing regulations on sanitation, identifying suspected cases, tracing contacts of suspected cases, and controlling quarantine facilities.
  • Reducing the pandemic's impact on local public services: guaranteeing safe water supplies and mitigating influences on the education system.
  • Aiding in social and economic relief efforts: creating centers for allocating food and building accommodations for poor people.24

Lessons learned and best practices

Factors leading to a robust pandemic response include:

  • Effective leadership and cooperation: The Prime Minister leads the entire community and government, while the Minister of Health leads public health initiatives with defined response strategies and budget planning ($62 million for the first year).
  • Previous investments have resulted in a viable public health system: multisource surveillance for the pandemic and 3,000 RRT members across the country.
  • Community involvement and risk communication: timely information distribution through multiple media, a community involvement plan, and tight coordination and collaboration with international and local partners.
  • International collaboration and solidarity: response by an open and transparent health system, tight collaboration with partners, and high-level involvement in international meetings.25

Related to Pandemics:


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