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COVID-19 Cases Surge Tuesday, Kandal border district records 60-plus infections

A healthcare worker swabs a man’s nasal cavity for a COVID-19 test on Tuesday at Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Health Center. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
A healthcare worker swabs a man’s nasal cavity for a COVID-19 test on Tuesday at Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Health Center. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

A Kandal province border district reported more than 60 cases of COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, as the February 20 cluster case count shot up by 105 cases.

A Health Ministry statement, released Tuesday morning, showed that 105 cases were reported in Kandal, Phnom Penh, Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk provinces. Sixty-four cases were reported in Kandal, including 14 Cambodians and 50 foreign nationals.

The steep jump in cases means that the February 20 community transmission cluster has continued to grow in numbers and geographically. There are 915 cases linked to the current outbreak, which has spread to at least 10 provinces.

The Kandal cases are from the Preak Seung village in the Koh Thom district that borders Vietnam and is a small casino outpost.

Ouk Srorn, Sampov Puon commune chief, said the commune has seen a total of 136 infections, most of which came from casino workers in Chrey Thom, where the border casinos.

“The authorities banned people from going to Chrey Thom, so they live outside that area,” Srorn said.

Srorn said villagers were scared of getting infected but that they were following Health Ministry’s instructions. He declined to comment further and referred questions to Kandal provincial authorities.

Nouvpeng Chandara, the deputy governor of Kandal province, said the province had seen a total of 173 COVID-19 cases during the February 20 event.

“Now, we have organized a place for treatment of COVID-19 patients at Chrey Thom,” he said.

Chandara said foreign nationals, who have tested positive, were from Preah Sihanouk province and had visited the casinos in the district. The area had been cordoned off since mid-February he said.

“There were six casinos linked to people infected with COVID-19 and we closed the area and all six casinos,” Chandara said.

Eng Sovichet, Koh Thom district governor, declined to comment and referred questions to the spokesperson of Kandal province. Kong Sophorn, Kandal provincial governor, and Health Ministry Secretary of State Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

A healthcare worker collects a sample from a woman for a COVID-19 test on Tuesday at Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Health Center. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
A healthcare worker collects a sample from a woman for a COVID-19 test on Tuesday at Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Health Center. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Prime Minister Hun Sen said previously he had given provincial governors the power to suspend wedding and Buddhist ceremonies as and when required, in a voice message released on his official Facebook page.

But, weddings and other ceremonies continued at high risk to attendees he said, calling for a suspension of such ceremonies. He said families could hold small ceremonies.

“I ask governors of the municipality and provinces to issue orders to temporarily suspend weddings or any ceremonies in provinces,” Hun Sen said.

Takeo provincial authorities issued a letter on March 15 to ban all wedding, parties and Buddhist ceremonies across the province.

Takeo Governor Ouch Phea said they were working with Kandal provincial authorities to contact trace potential infections, after a man, who attended a wedding in Samrong district’s Rovieng commune last week, tested positive for COVID-19.

“The people who are related to this case were quarantined for 14 days,” Phea said.

Last week a 50-years-old Cambodian man died from COVID-19, marking Cambodia’s first death from the disease. The country’s COVID-19 tally reached 1,430 as of Tuesday morning, of which more than 900 are from the current cluster.

According to the Health Ministry, more than 170,000 people had received at least one dose of the two vaccines available in the country as of March 14. Additionally, 108,648 security personnel have been inoculated as well, most receiving only their first dose of the vaccine.

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