OPINION: “Do not panic” says PM Hun Sen as Covid-19 emerges in the community for the first time
AKP Phnom Penh, November 30, 2020 --
Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, sent the right message in every way when he called for his people not to panic. It is a pro-active move that fits well when it comes to the information flow and crisis communication in government.
At times of uncertainty it is understandable that people became concerned when they learned that a 56-year-old Cambodian lady contracted Covid-19 and travelled to many places. As the nation’s leader, it is his job to put context on the event and prevent uninformed gossip and advise appropriate action. It encourages people to take control by being vigilant, improving protective measures and adapting to the new normalcy.
Learn how to deal with the event
Please learn from the Premier’s step-by-step instructions on how to deal with this and similar events.
The Premier’s first voice clip, released late evening on Nov. 28, 2020, asked his people to not go outside after he learned that there is a threat of possible spread of Covid-19 in Phnom Penh after the lady, a senior police official, tested positive for Covid-19 the same day.
He told the public that the spread could possibly have occurred at Aeon mall, which the lady visited last week, or the Interior Ministry, where the lady’s husband attended a meeting on Nov. 24, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister, Sar Kheng, Interior Minister, along with 11 other senior officials.
“For the Aeon one mall, we need temporary closure for a short period... I ask our people not to panic, but they must improve their individual protection from the virus”, said the Premier, who added: “they must follow the Health Ministry’s instructions. They must seek consultations with doctors should they suspect they have contracted Coronavirus”.
Deputy PM Sar Kheng, Minister of interior, said that he himself has to self-quarantine and called on his interior and police officials to follow the health instruction to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This is another information management flow, in the sense that the government accepted the facts and at the same time applied measures needed to be taken by the concerned institutions.
The seriousness of the lady patient of Covid-19 is indicated by the health experts assessment that, “the lady’s test showed that it contains high level of the virus”.
On the Nov. 29, 2020, the test results also confirmed that her five other family members—including her husband, a police official, and four others—had Covid-19.
Although no one knows for sure where and when the lady contracted the Coronavirus, but it is believed to be from Siem Reap province within the previous ten days.
That prompted the Premier to alert the public and ask them to continue to follow health instructions given that the lady had visited other provinces of Siem Reap, the home of Angkor. The two other provinces of the north-western Bantey Meanchey, and the northeastern hilly Mondulkiri are also listed.
To prevent possible greater spread, PM Hun Sen asked people to “avoid any mass gatherings” although he did not call for the closure of the schools in the said provinces, and to keep wearing mask and maintain social distancing, which are still necessary measures.
The son of the 56-year-old patient, tested positive, prompting the government to temporary close the local school he attended.
“In this situation, the government takes the measure of quarantining people who had either direct or indirect contact with the lady, along with taking specimens to test for Covid-19,” said the Prime Minister.
“This is the best and most urgent measures to get them to stay at home so as to contain the virus spread,” said the Prime Minister’s voice clip circulated via the Telegram messenger group of the officials.
“We must go with the new normalcy... I hope our people understand this”.
As a strategic wise leader, he also convinced the public, saying that the news report of Covid-19 this week will not impact his plan on Monday, Nov. 30, for the opening inauguration of road construction in Siem Reap province, where the governor of the province needs to quarantine as well.
“I am now in Siem Reap for the coming opening of road constructions and the river bank renovation, my plan for the coming event remains unchanged, but we just need to improve the protective measures,” said PM Hun Sen’s voice clip on social media.
“I hope all will be able to overcome this hardship,” he said.
Cambodia had another success story from the Nov. 3, 2020 event in Phnom Penh when four people, including three Cambodians and the Hungarian ambassador, contracted the virus from the visiting Hungarian Foreign Minister.
Prime Minister Hun Sen at the time instructed his concerned authorities to make sure government leaders, himself and others—who had contact with the Hungarian delegation—must follow the Health Ministry’s instructions.
Last week, the government announced that the Nov. 3 event is over, after more than 1,000 people tested four times negative for Covid-19, thanks to the Premier’s leadership and experts.
As of Nov. 29 2020, no reports have claimed a single death from Covid-19 in Cambodia thanks to the government’s leadership under Prime Minister Hun Sen and his team along with support from friendly countries such as China, the USA, the World Health Organisation and others in the fight against the Coronavirus since the outbreak early 2020.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently praised the Kingdom of Wonder, Cambodia, for its great management in containing the spread of Covid-19. It proved that Cambodia is capable, under the Premier’s leadership, in the fight against the virus.
As of this morning, Cambodia has 323 cases of Covid-19 nationwide, including foreign nationals, of which 301 recovered. The country’s population is more than 16.8 million.
As of Nov. 29, 2020, global Covid-19 cases recorded 62,573,188, including the deaths of 1,458,305, recovered 43,193,992, and some 17,920,891 still hospitalised.
It is very important to be the first out there with accurate information, as stated by Prime Minister Hun Sen. This helps the government to not only ensure the flow of accurate information but also prevents people from panicking, because any chaos will bring negative impacts on social, economic and public order.
Thus, the statement by Prime Minister Hun Sen is a great example of how to handle crisis communication in the government. This reminds me of when I myself, as a government spokesman, learned on a course in London in 2012 on crisis communication in government by British experts, and another one conducted by visiting Chinese experts in Phnom Penh.
I, however, observed that the government has a great network, in addition to the facilities of electronic communication, that enables the Prime Minister, who himself likes to deal with such communications, and his team to achieve its target when it comes to dealing with crises.
“Only through quarantine we can overcome covid-19 since we did not know how the lady contracted Coronavirus and where else she went to,” the Premier affirmed his measures.
By Ek Tha,
Standing-Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit,
Spokesman of the Council of Ministers,
Advisor to the Ministry of Information