Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday reaffirmed his decision not to evacuate Cambodians from China, where more than 300 people have died from a new strain of a respiratory virus, and vowed to visit citizens in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.
In a speech to Cambodian migrant workers in Seoul, Hun Sen said Cambodian university students in Wuhan would be safer if they remained under quarantine in the city.
“I will go and visit our students in Wuhan if China allows, and only if China allows,” the prime minister said.
Some Cambodian students in China last month told VOD that they feared leaving their dormitories and risking catching the disease, which has flu-like symptoms.
Cambodia has confirmed just one case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), while some 14,600 cases of the acute respiratory disease have been confirmed globally, with 99 percent reported in China, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report from Sunday.
The viral strain has been documented in more than 20 countries, but all but one of the 305 deaths attributed to the virus occurred in China, WHO said. In the region, Thailand has confirmed 19 cases; Vietnam, 7; Singapore, 18; and Malaysia, 8.
On Thursday, Hun Sen said Cambodians in China would not be evacuated home — as some nations have done for their citizens — in order to avoid potential damage to Cambodian-Chinese relations.
“I don’t care what other countries are thinking,” he said. “Cambodia will not act in such a way.”
Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian has reciprocated Hun Sen’s good-will rhetoric, acknowledging Cambodia’s friendship with China.
“Only a strong, rattling wind can know the endurance of a weed, so only in difficult circumstances can we know a true friend,” Wang said in a statement posted to the embassy’s Facebook page on Monday.
In an interview with select media outlets on Sunday, Wang expressed confidence that the Chinese government would contain and cure the disease throughout China. He said Beijing was working with Cambodia’s Health Ministry to find and identify people who had contracted the virus.
But when asked whether health officials had found and tested all individuals who had been in contact with Jia Jianhua — the Chinese national who tested positive for novel coronavirus last week, and remains Cambodia’s only confirmed case — Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann did not answer.
Sovann also declined to say how many people had been tested for the virus after calling into the ministry’s national hotline.
Jia, 60, was in good health and continued to receive treatment while under quarantine at the Preah Sihanouk provincial hospital, Sovann told VOD.
“Even though we don’t have medicine to cure coronavirus, we have medical treatments…to improve our health and our bodies to be strong enough to fight the virus,” the spokesman said.
Jia’s three family members who traveled with him to Sihanoukville from Wuhan last month had earlier tested negative for the virus, so they were released and advised to wear facial masks, Sovann added.
Anyone in Cambodia who believes they may have contracted novel coronavirus can call the Health Ministry’s hotline at 115 for assistance. VOD