Number of Covid-19 Cases May Be Higher Than Recorded, Pasteur Institute Says3 min read

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Dr. Duong Veasna, deputy head of the Virology Unit at the Pasteur Institute speaks to journalists about Covid-19 during a talk organized by CFI and CamboJA on Thursday. (CFI)
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A doctor at the Pasteur Institute’s Virology Unit said on June 4 that the number of Covid-19 cases in Cambodia could be over 125 patients due to difficulties in carrying out comprehensive testing, and called on the Ministry of Health to join in new research on the virus.

In a meeting with journalists, Dr. Duong Veasna, deputy head of the Virology Unit at Pasteur Institute, said the number of Covid-19 cases may be higher than the currently recorded 125 due to not all testedand the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers.

“We do not know how big the outbreak is because we can’t test everyone. We found 125 positive cases out of those who we tested. And what about the people who do not get tested?” Dr. Veasna said.

In the meeting, organized by CFI Media Development and Cambodia Journalists Alliance (CamboJA), Dr. Veasna said that the number of infected patients is difficult to track because many people who contract Covid-19 are asymptomatic

Dr. Veasna also recognized the Ministry of Health’s efforts in recording potential cases of the virus. He said that overall, 13,870 tests were processed by Pasteur Institute.

“This is a good effort because in March, we were concerned that the Covid-19 outbreak would spread in the community. But as of now, the efforts of the government to reduce the spread have been effective,” he said.

Dr. Veasna added that the institute has proposed a Covid-19 research planto the Health Ministry so that the two can work together to carry out further research into the spread of the virus. He added that the Health Ministry has yet to confirm the plan, as they are currently focusing on enforcinghygiene and social distancing measures.

“We are waiting to finalize an agreement with the Health Ministry. … After the spread of Covid-19 eases further, so maybe the Ministry of Health can let us research. It’s not too late” Dr. Veasna said.

He said the research would focus on patients who had already tested positive for Covid-19,and would examinetheir contact with family, friends and neighbors, as well ashealth workers who have helped treat Covid-19 patients.

Dr. Veasna said the average number of people tested per day had increased from about 60 to more than 300 per day. He added that recently, Pasteur Institute has been testing tourists arriving from overseas, which increased the number of tests to around 400 people per day.

“Pasteur Institute can possibly test about 400 people per day for Covid-19,” he said.

Dr. Horm Sreyviseth, a researcher at the Virology Unit at the Institute said that the Health Ministry and WHO had tried to quickly locate people infected with Covid-19, and upon finding those patients, Pasteur Institute had controlled patients and the people who had been exposed to them so as not to infect others.

Three more people have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past two weeks, according to a post on the Facebook page of Cambodia’s Communicable Disease Control Department (CDC) on June 4. The new cases bring Cambodia’s total recorded infections to 125 people: 123 fully-recovered patients, zero deaths and two patients who are being treated at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

The CDC post also encouraged people to practice proper hygieneand to remain home when possible as Covid-19 continues to spread around the world.

“We must continue to practice social distancing, such as delaying weddings, parties, and dance parties,” the CDC post said.Health Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.    

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