Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

After fourth COVID-19 death, government calls for increased cooperation with testing

Health workers conduct a COVID-19 test on Monday outside a clothing shop in Phnom Penh. Panha Chhorpoan
Health workers conduct a COVID-19 test on Monday outside a clothing shop in Phnom Penh. Panha Chhorpoan
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The Health Ministry on Monday asked all frontline workers, or people who routinely interact with others, living in Phnom Penh and Kandal and exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to get tested, as the country reported its fourth death from the viral disease. 

The directive was issued by the ministry’s Communicable Disease Control Department on Monday 22, and asked all frontline workers, including medical staffers, teachers, armed forces personnel, judicial police officers, sanitation workers and taxi drivers, to get tested immediately if they had COVID-19 symptoms.

“People who interact with many different people are at higher risk of catching COVID-19,” the statement reads. “[You] should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

The statement comes as Cambodia reported its fourth COVID-19 death, after an elderly man died on Monday, a day after he started getting treatment for the disease.

Health Ministry Spokesperson Or Vandine declined to comment on Monday.

But the spokesperson gave an interview to Bayon TV, which is owned by Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana. She said Cambodia had been hit heavily by the UK variant of the virus.

 “This morning, we had one person who died. I don’t know if there will be more deaths in the future because we have patients who are in a serious condition,” Vandine said.

The Ministry of Health also reported that the current cluster, dubbed the February 20 event, has recorded 1,233 cases and fourth deaths. More than 700 active cases were receiving treatment across the country.

Kuoy Bunthoeun, Kandal’s provincial health director, said that the Health Ministry’s new measure was to prevent the continued spread of the community transmission.

“It is a good thing if they go get tested for COVID-19 because they are at risk. For example, taxi drivers who have interacted and transported passengers,” he said.

He said the community transmission was under control because authorities at all levels were working hard to prevent the spread of the virus.

Phnom Penh Municipal Health Director Ngy Meanheng could not be reached for comment on Monday.

People hand over forms with personal information to health workers on March 16 at Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Health Center. CamboJA/Pring Samrang

After issuing an informal directive to work from home, the government has taken a slew of measures to ensure social distancing and closure of non-essential services.

The Education Ministry on Saturday temporarily shut down public and private schools across the country and instructed teachers to resume online learning. On Sunday, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art also temporarily closed museums, performance venues and theaters and the Labor Ministry has suspended vocational training centers.

With Khmer New Year approaching in April, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive allowing workers to have a three-day holiday from April 14 to 16. But, employers and employees can decide to delay the holiday and take it later in the year or club it with the Pchum Ben holidays in October.

Authorities have increased the surveillance of people traveling between provinces with some conducting temperature checks for all passengers at checkpoints. People also have to quarantine for 14 days when they enter some provinces, especially if they departed from Phnom Penh and Kandal.

Kampong Thom Governor Sok Lou said local authorities were collecting relevant information from travelers and ensuring that anyone who stayed in the province had to quarantine.

“If we find that they have come from areas with the outbreak, they are made to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a center,” he said.

Prom Sophea, who drives a taxi between Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh, was concerned about getting infected and said he would follow the Health Ministry’s instructions. After finishing a trip to Kampong Cham on Saturday, officials came to check his temperature, he said.

“We are afraid and we are always vigilant,” he said. “It does not matter. I will go get tested for COVID-19 to prevent infection.”

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