Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Cambodia records almost 1,000 cases of COVID-19 Delta variant

A woman stands in front of her home near the locked-down market in Phsar Chas commune, Daun Penh district in Phnom Penh, August 23, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
A woman stands in front of her home near the locked-down market in Phsar Chas commune, Daun Penh district in Phnom Penh, August 23, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Almost 1,000 cases of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 have been found across Cambodia since the end of March, according to new figures released by the Ministry of Health.

A report released by the Ministry of Health shows that as of August 22, Cambodia has detected a total of 999 new cases of the Delta variant, including 490 women, since March 31. Every province except Kep and Kratie have recorded cases of the new variant.

The new variant has been most commonly found in Phnom Penh, which has recorded 238 cases. Oddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces have experienced the next-highest rates of infection, with 176, 147 and 138 positive Delta cases respectively.

But Banteay Meanchey provincial health department deputy director Roeun Sothy said that​​ the published total of 146 likely did not count all Delta cases in the province, only those samples that had been sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh to test for the new variant.

More than 600 youths undergoing treatment for drug addiction in Banteay Meanchey’s Chivith Thmey (“New Life”) Phnom Bak Center in Serei Sophorn City have tested positive for COVID-19 since August 16, with another ten patients testing positive for the virus on Sunday. Of the twenty samples from the center sent to the Pasteur Institute for testing, all were confirmed as the Delta variant.

“It is a cluster of the Delta variant,” he said, adding that not all samples taken could be tested for the new variant for lack of time and equipment. He told CamboJA that a total of 16,891 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Banteay Meanchey since February 20 with 12,679 recoveries and 130 deaths.

“No patients with the Delta variant have died in Banteay Meanchey province,” he said.

Parts of Cambodia have imposed partial lockdown measures in an attempt to slow the more contagious variant’s spread. Faced with positive cases of the new variant, Phnom Penh municipal authorities have closed part of Phsar Chas market in Daun Penh district, Depo market in Tuol Kork district, Serey Pheap and Duy Mech markets in Prampi Makara district, a part of Century Plaza market in Pur Senchey district, a construction site in Dangkor district, villages in Sen Sok and Russei Keo districts and some areas in Prek Pnov district.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Keut Chhe declined to answer questions on whether the new variant had been responsible for any deaths in the capital, referring the question to health ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. Vandine declined to comment, saying that she was too busy to speak to reporters.

“I appeal to any people who have not been vaccinated yet, please go get vaccinated all together,” Chhe said. He asked the public to respect health ministry instructions and not to travel to crowded places unless absolutely necessary.

Dy Rado, deputy governor and spokesman of Oddar Meanchey province, said the province’s Delta outbreak had been caused by migrant workers returning from Thailand, who unknowingly passed the virus to health staff along the border.

“Even though it has spread to the community, our authorities have stopped the Delta outbreak in time, although doctors have had to protect themselves strictly,” he said.

Rado told CamboJA that many of the positive cases were workers who had come through the O’Smach Checkpoint. There have been 6,115 infections in the province so far, including 5,044 migrant workers, and 2,500 recoveries as well as ten deaths. Rado said that no one has died from the Delta variant.

Ly Samreth, deputy governor and spokesman of Siem Reap province, said that the main source of the variant’s outbreak had also been migrant workers returning to the province, despite quarantine measures that had been put in place.

“We are really concerned about this new Delta virus,” he said. “Even normal COVID-19 is hard to fight against, and now the new Delta has come that spreads quickly. There have been 6,750 people infected [with COVID-19], 5,200 recoveries and 75 deaths.”

Siem Reap has been designated as the treatment center for severe cases coming from five provinces north of the Tonle Sap including Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampong Thom, with a capacity of 400 beds.

Yong Kim Eng, executive director of the People Center for Development and Peace, said that in general, the authorities could not test all samples of COVID-19 for the Delta variant because of the number of cases, instead having to test some samples at random.

“It is important, we are concerned because COVID-19 is a big worry for all the countries in the world as well as Cambodia,” he said.

Kim Eng said that it was also important that Cambodia had decided to administer a third dose of the vaccine to people.

“Moreover, I think that the authorities must take any additional measures to protect against a COVID-19 outbreak … to reopen all services [in the society] including economic services and others,” Kim Eng said. “Meanwhile, we must inspect all checkpoints along the border of neighboring countries and also clearly control all the people who are quarantining.”

On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported 410 new cases of COVID-19 including 132 imported cases, bringing the total count to 89,641 including 14,301 imported cases since the pandemic began in early 2020. The large majority of these cases have been recorded since February 20, when the ongoing community outbreak began in Cambodia. The ministry has also recorded 85,618 recovered cases and 1,808 deaths from the virus.