Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Another week of lockdowns for some Phnom Penh red zones, but area shrinks

Garment workers leave after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in a red zone in Choam Chao 1 commune, Pur Senchey District in Phnom Penh, May 12, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Garment workers leave after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in a red zone in Choam Chao 1 commune, Pur Senchey District in Phnom Penh, May 12, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

The Phnom Penh municipal authority announced it was extending targeted lockdowns for another week, including some areas that have already been locked down for more than a month.

In a decision signed by Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng on May 12, authorities issued an updated map designating most of the city as yellow zones that are safe to fully reopen. But some parts of Tuol Kork, Meanchey, Russei Keo, and Pur Senchey districts still are marked as red zones and face strict lockdown measures until May 19. It is the second extension in as many weeks, following a citywide lockdown from April 15 – May 5. Some red zones, meanwhile, have been under lockdown since April 9.

Keo Nuon, 52, a factory worker who lives in a rental room in Trea 4 village, in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey 3 commune, said she has received food donations during the past month of lockdown. She received 25 kg of rice, a case of noodles, fish sauce, and a case of canned fish from the government along with 5 kg of rice, 10 packages of noodles, and four cans of fish from an NGO. But it is not enough, she said.

“Based on this aid, we cannot have enough to eat because I have five members in the room for a month but if any families have only one or two members, it is enough,” Nuon said. “Now, we don’t have money to buy any food because we did not work for a month.”

She said she received the bill recently for her rent and utilities, “but I do not have money to pay.”

Nuon implored the authorities for additional food and financial support.

“I am bored because I stay only in a single room and we have nothing to do and we do not have an income,” Nuon said. “If the authorities continue to lock down for one week more, we will meet serious difficulties.”

Un Sophanna, 23, works in a money exchange shop and lives in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey 3 commune. She said that while she has been able to live off her savings, she believed an additional week of lockdown would be difficult for many of her neighbors.

“I think that if the authorities continue to lockdown for one week more, citizens in red zones and especially factory workers will meet more difficulties because they do not have money to buy any foods and vegetables,” she said.

“Even though sometimes I get bored I still respect the government’s measures and Health Ministry’s instructions and stay in my room to help to reduce COVID-19 spreading,” she added.

Military trucks bring food supplies for distribution to residents who live in a red zone in Stung Meanchey 3 commune in Phnom Penh, May 12, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Military trucks bring food supplies for distribution to residents who live in a red zone in Stung Meanchey 3 commune in Phnom Penh, May 12, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a declaration promising cash assistance to support low-income families that have faced difficulties during and after the lockdown. The notice also promises support to families struggling financially after a COVID-19 death or illness.

The declaration targets those facing difficulty amid lockdowns in Phnom Penh, Takhmao city, and Sihanoukville including families of taxi drivers, construction workers, vendors, garbage collectors, and entertainment workers. Requests will be evaluated by local officials and supported by volunteer groups facilitated by the Planning Ministry.

Eligible families will receive assistance based on size. An individual can receive a one-time payment of 156,000 riel [$39] for food, utilities, and rent, while a family with two or three members can receive 243, 700 riel [$60.925]. Those with four or more members will receive 311,000 riel [$77.75], the notice said.

Workers at garment and footwear factories can receive a one-time payment of 160,000 riel [$40] through a mechanism offered earlier by the Labor Ministry. Any person who holds a poor pass card, will receive assistance every month.

The government will provide 300,000 riel [$75] and pay for five months electricity and water for any families who had a relative die of COVID-19, while any families who had a relative infected with COVID-19 can receive the same support offered to vulnerable residents as outlined above.

Keut Chhe, deputy Phnom Penh governor, said the targeted lockdowns were helping infection rates drop while letting the rest of the city get back to normal. He said the government gave food aid at least once to  every needy resident in a red zone and would continue to donate to those in need.

“If compatriots meet with food shortage, please provide their information to the authorities that are near their home,” he said.

Chhe said the city government would be meeting Thursday to discuss how best to move forward with the cash assistance plan.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, called on the government to deliver aid faster and said he hoped the shrinking red zones would make it easier to do so. 

“I think that when red zones and dark yellow zones are made smaller than before, the government will find them easy to control, so they will provide some service faster,” he said.

The Ministry of Health reported 472 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total case count to 20,695 since the pandemic began in 2020. The ministry has recorded 8,539 recovered cases and 136 deaths.

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