Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Phnom Penh placed under curfew as Covid cases, deaths rise

Customers in front of a coffee shop in Phnom Penh ahead of the curfew on April 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Customers in front of a coffee shop in Phnom Penh ahead of the curfew on April 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng declared a two-week curfew in the capital from April 1, with travel and gathering banned from 8 pm until 5 am, as COVID-19 infections related to the February 20 outbreak approach 2,000 and the death tally hit 16.

Businesses – including restaurants, cafes and bars – are not permitted to have customers on-site during the curfew, but are allowed to continue delivery services; and travel within the city is banned aside for urgent medical reasons, delivery and cargo drivers, firefighters, some workers and special cases allowed by authorities, the governor announced.

“We will implement based on the decision of Phnom Penh Municipality, City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey told CamboJA, declining to give details and directing reporters to the sub-decree and official announcement.  

The directive says that offenders will face the legal articles introduced recently in response to multiple breaches of COVID-19 protocols. 

Dy Sreylong, 36, a supervisor at Malis Restaurant along Norodom Boulevard, confirmed that her restaurant would change opening hours to from 6 am until 7 pm according to the directive – another hit after daily customers declined from about 200 to about 20 during the pandemic.

“It’s a lot of [lost] income,” she said.

Meanwhile in Sihanoukville and Kandal province, which both have COVID-19 clusters linked to the February 20 outbreak, authorities are increasing measures to counter the spread of the virus.

“We must implement the new sub-decree on any people who do not respect the Health Ministry’s instructions,” Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn said, adding that anyone coming to Kandal would be quarantined for 14 days.

He said 276 people are now infected in Chrey Thom area of Koh Thom district, a border-town with multiple casinos – and that unnecessary travel around the province and gatherings for dancing, singing and gambling were banned.

“Please, all people celebrate Khmer New Year at home and respect the Health Ministry’s instructions,” he said.  

The spokesman for Preah Sihanouk administration, which has about 300 live infections, said that authorities would increase measures according to the sub-decree. 

“We have not closed traffic or markets in Preah Sihanouk province but the people have to follow the Health Ministry’s instructions,” said Kheang Phearom.

A woman receives a jab of the Sinovac vaccine in Phnom Penh, April 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
A woman receives a jab of the Sinovac vaccine in Phnom Penh, April 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

The Health Ministry reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 including two imported cases on April 1, taking the number of cases in the February 20 cluster to 1,949, and the total since the pandemic began to 2,477.

The Health Ministry also confirmed Cambodia’s 16th death from COVID-19, after three women died on March 31 and two elderly women died on April 1.

Five women aged between 56 and 70 and a 28-year-old who had pre-existing diabetes died over two days, with reports of severe lung damage and respiratory complications before death.

A further 700,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine among 1.3 million promised via donation from China arrived on Wednesday night. The Ministry of Defence will take 300,000 doses and 400,000 will go to the Health Ministry.

The government has also received 1.5 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine purchased from Sinovac Biotech, which can inoculate 750,000 people.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, said the  new COVID-19 measures were appropriate but raised concern about them being used improperly to stifle the work of civil society groups.

“I concern the authority will implement this law above health measure,” said Mr Tola, calling for the government to offer social security to struggling families as the effects of the pandemic worsen.