Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Phsar Chas closed, three more villages locked down as Covid spreads

Residents approach barricades in a locked down area in Meanchey district's Stung Meanchey I commune, in Phnom Penh, April 12, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Residents approach barricades in a locked down area in Meanchey district's Stung Meanchey I commune, in Phnom Penh, April 12, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
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A second garment factory and a popular Phnom Penh market have been shut down and three more villages have been placed under lockdown, as the COVID-19 caseload rose by another 277 cases on Monday, officials said, following weekend warnings that Cambodia was on the brink of a “national tragedy.”

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng ordered all restaurants and cafes to reduce operations to delivery only and banned the sale of alcohol for two weeks, as the government moves to prevent the spread of the pandemic – which has now claimed 30 lives – ahead of the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday.

Phsar Chas – or Old Market – was closed on Monday after multiple positives were found among vendors, while positive cases from the Din Han factory in Meanchey district passed 600 as a another factory, AM2 in Kambol district, was closed and workers sent for testing following 27 positives found there, officials said.

Three more villages in Stung Meanchey 3 commune – Trea 4, Damnak Thom 2 and Damnak Thom 3 – were placed on lockdown as Din Han remains shuttered for two weeks, but 40 nearby factories will continue to operate as normal, officials said.

People, including workers, would be permitted to travel into locked down areas but only with special permission, said Meanchey district deputy governor Dy Rath Khemrun.

“In general, if they [workers] are outside of the lockdown area but they have the permission pass, they can go in and out for their work normally,” he told CamboJA, adding that 2,800 workers from Din Han had now been tested, with more than 600 now being treated for the virus.

“For the remaining people, the Phnom Penh governor ordered authorities to implement lockdown measures and quarantine them for 14 days at home.”

A total of 27 workers at the AM2 factory in Kambol district had tested positive for the virus since testing began last week, according to district governor Khim Sunsoda.

“All workers were quarantined for 14 days but the 23 who had direct contact with those positive workers were put in isolation,” Mr. Sunsoda said, adding that the remaining 450 workers had not been infected.

Vendors from Phsar Chas wait to be tested for COVID-19 in Phnom Penh on April 12, 2021.CamboJA/​ Pring Samrang

Meanwhile, Phnom Penh City Hall closed Phsar Chas in Daun Penh district on Monday morning after several vendors were found positive of COVID-19, though authorities could not give details, including the number of cases.

Vendors had been tested for the virus, said Ngy Mean Heng, director of Phnom Penh Health Department, adding that authorities were doing their best to limit shutdowns and disruptions to people’s lives while also preventing the virus from spreading further.

“The state and health officials have the power to close places with a lot of COVID-19 cases but, in places with only one or two cases, they just request that people do not go outside,” he said.

Following a year of relative success in containing the pandemic, the February 20 cluster has pushed the nation’s health facilities to the brink, with almost 1,500 new cases in the past four days.

In response to the spike, Phnom Penh City Hall implemented a two-week curfew in Phnom Penh and a complete lockdown in places with high case numbers, including Stung Meanchey 1 and Stung Meanchey 2 commune, seven villages in Pur Senchey district and one in Sen Sok.

On Saturday, three more villages in Stung Meanchey commune were locked down, as Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a three-hour address on the situation, in which he said that the government was providing 300,000 riel to families of COVID-19 patients.

For those locked down or in quarantine, the government would pay utility bills for two or three months, respectively, he said, adding that microfinance institutions and banks have agreed to delay payments for two months for patients.

On Sunday, the prime minister announced via sub-decree that vaccination would be mandatory for public servants and armed forces, with exemptions for those with underlying health issues.

“Obligation for COVID-19 vaccination to implement on public servants and armed forces in the executive institute, elected citizens to serve the public and public servants in the legislative institute, and judges, prosecutors, and public officials in the court institute,” the sub-decree said.

Types of vaccines and the vaccination procedures shall follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, it added.

With many garment factories inside the locked down areas, all workers passing through should be tested for the virus, said Mann Seng Hak, deputy director of Free Trade Union of Kingdom of Cambodia.

“If factories in the lockdown area allow workers to go inside the lockdown area to work, it’s a concern,” he said, calling for strict enforcement of lockdown measures inside the areas.

Following the spike in cases in recent days, the total tally of infections has reached 4,515, with 3,982 linked to the February 20 cluster, the Health Ministry said in its daily update on Monday.

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