Cambodian authorities are monitoring travelers across the country, including checking their body temperatures, as the February 20 community transmission cluster registered almost 550 positive cases.
These temperature checks have been put in place as the cluster spread beyond Phnom Penh, Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to Koh Kong, Kampong Thom and Prey Veng provinces. Prime Minister Hun Sen also instructed the government to reduce staffing at offices, allowing workers to work from home.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that temperature checks were being conducted when people traveled from one province to another province.
“You go to Mondulkiri province, they will check [your temperature] and then you go to Battambang province, they will also check your temperature,” he said, declining to comment further.
A high fever is only one of many symptoms that can indicate COVID-19 and the virus has an incubation period of 14 days before symptoms may manifest in a person.
Siem Reap Deputy Governor Ly Samreth confirmed that local authorities had set up similar checkpoints for all travelers within Siem Reap province, except vehicles transporting goods, and for those coming from Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Kandal and Prey Veng.
“We are worried that there are some people who have the virus coming to Siem Reap,” He said.
Kandal Governor Kong Sophorn had ordered the temporary closure of five casinos and one hotel in Koh Thom district’s Sampov Poun commune after people tested positive for COVID-19, including five foreigners.
“We have closed some areas of Chrey Thom, related to a hotel and casinos,” he said.
Sophorn said there were around 6,000 people in quarantine currently and working groups were tracking and testing samples for COVID-19.
Chhay Kim Khoeun, spokesperson of the National Police, said the checkpoints were intended to prevent people who were sick from traveling and spreading the virus.
“We are concerned people who do not have the disease will meet with people who have the disease,” said Kim Khoeun, who declined to provide additional details of other measures taken to stop the spread of the cluster.
Prey Veng Deputy Governor Chann Tha said 12 people were positive for COVID-19 in Peamro district and that 261 direct and indirect contacts had been placed in quarantine. Schools had been closed in the district, he added.
He appealed to people to get tested or remain in quarantine to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“We appeal the people who live stop going outside and the people do not go into that area,” Tha said.
According to a Health Ministry, there were 48 new cases related to the February 20 event, bringing the total number of cases in this cluster to 549 and the total number of cases since last year to 1,060.
Additionally, a total of 77,963 people had got at least one dose of a COVD-19 vaccine as of March 8 and the Defense Ministry had vaccinated 96,080 security personnel as of Saturday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday afternoon ordered the Health and Justice Ministries to prepare a sub-decree that would allow the state to cremate a person who died from COVID-19.
“In the past, we did not think about this because the situation was not serious, but now we believe that it is a serious issue so we will not lose control,” he said in an audio message.
“We have determined that those who die of COVID-19 must be cremated. At this point, it is understandable that it is not the custom for some nations [for people] to be cremated, in this case we have to do this,” he said.
Only a small number of people will be allowed to attend the funerals and the crematoriums will be located far from inhabited areas.
Or Vandine, spokesperson of the Health Ministry, could not be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday asked all public institutions and private companies to reduce the number of staff in offices for at least a week, and allow most of them to work from home. He said the military, health clinics, markets and garment factories to continue as normal.
“The infections have spread to National Police, civil servants and artists,” Hun Sen said. “So, institutions do not have to completely close down but reduce people by at least 90 percent.”
He also wanted the Senate to immediately pass the draft law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 and other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases, which was passed by the National Assembly last Friday.
(Reporting by Khy Sovuthy, Khuon Narim and Sorn Sarath)