EMILY JANE SMITH
As the world grapples with the pandemic more than a year since the first COVID-19 cases were declared, Cambodia has emerged as an unassuming success story.
Cambodia is one of few mainland countries to have recorded zero deaths from COVID-19, despite having an underfunded healthcare system.
At the time of publishing this article, Cambodia has recorded a total of 448 COVID-19 cases and zero deaths.
On the same day, the UK recorded more than 38,000 new cases with 1,820 COVID-19 related deaths.
Although the two countries are not comparable in terms of population or healthcare system, it offers a comparison idea of how the virus has affected two countries vastly differently.
So different, it seems almost unbelievable.
Frances Daily, a medical doctor who has worked in Cambodia for more than two decades, was initially sceptical at their numbers but is now convinced their success is legitimate.
“It is astonishing,” she said from her home in Tasmania.
“I thought we were going to get slaughtered [by COVID-19] there … but after the first few months of the pandemic, it became apparent that they really didn’t have many cases. ”
Dr Daily has worked in infection control and medical education in Cambodia. She said that if cases and deaths were higher than the official numbers, the health crisis would be too big to hide.
“There would be recorded deaths, absolutely, if the spread of COVID-19 was far beyond what was recorded.”
Professor McLaws, who is a UNSW professor and advisor to World Health Organisation Infection Control and Prevention Guidance Development Group for COVID-19, said that border controls and culture go a long way in explaining Cambodia’s success.
“Deaths are a fairly good indication that COVID-19 is not widespread, even if some positive cases have not been recorded, and that they’ve been very fortunate.”