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Cases cross 1,000, as Sokha Hotel guard charged for allowing quarantine breach

Ambulances leave the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center with COVID-19 patients after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered that people in quarantine and infected patients should not be kept at the same site. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan
Ambulances leave the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center with COVID-19 patients after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered that people in quarantine and infected patients should not be kept at the same site. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan

A security guard from Sokha Hotel, who allegedly allowed four people to leave quarantine at the hotel, was charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday.

Kuch Kimlong, the spokesperson of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Ren Sotheara, 38, who worked at Sokha Hotel as a security guard, was charged under Article 42 of the Law on Disaster Management. The release of the four foreign nationals was likely linked to the February 20 community transmission cluster, which has so far resulted in 501 positive cases.

“Ren Sotheara was charged based on Article 42 of Law on Disaster Management,” Kimlong said.

Two security guards were linked to the four foreign nationals leaving Sokha Hotel. One fled and was caught in Battambang province and the other detained in Phnom Penh. The two guards were first sent to quarantine for 14 days before legal action was initiated.

Article 42 of the Law on Disaster Management says the deliberate violation of regulations of decisions made by an on-site administration would result in a prison sentence of one month to a year and a fine of up to $250.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen immediately ordered that people being treated for COVID-19 at the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district, saying he was shocked that people being treated and quarantined were placed at the same site.

“I was shocked when I found out that the quarantine center in Prek Pnov was not supposed to be used for treatment [Covid-19 patient]. As I know, people who were not patients were sent there and they got sick,” Hun Sen said.

He ordered that the shuttered Great Duke Hotel in Phnom Penh be used as a quarantine center, putting his son and Army Commander Hun Manet in charge of the project.

 “I saw the situation it was not good. I ordered them to find another place,” Hun Sen added.

He also ordered that returning migrant workers, who are currently being quarantined at centers near the border should be sent to their home provinces to spend 14 days at a state facility.

The issue of patients and non-infected people being housed at the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center came to light after the death of a foreign national allegedly over drug withdrawal issues.

A Health Ministry letter, signed by Health Minister Mam Bunheng and sent to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the man died around 9 a.m. Thursday at the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center. He had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and was asymptomatic.

Ambulances transport COVID-19 patients from the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center to the Great Duke Hotel on Monday. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan

Ambulances were seen lined up outside the Great Duke Hotel on Monday, as COVID-19 patients were transferred there from the Phnom Penh Quarantine Center.

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said on Monday he was at the quarantine center in Prek Pnov and that authorities were transporting COVID-19 patients to the hotel.

“In the future, we will receive only the people who have to quarantine [at the Prek Pnov center],” Sreng said.

Health Ministry Secretary of State Or Vandine declined to comment about the transfer of COVID-19 patients.

According to a Health Ministry release on Monday, there were 24 new cases related to the February 20 event, bringing the total number of cases linked to the current cluster to 501 and the total number of cases since last year to 1,011.

Additionally, a total of 71,185 people received COVD-19 vaccines as of March 7 and the Defense Ministry had vaccinated 96,080 security personnel with the Sinopharm vaccine as of Saturday.

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