Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Red zones eliminated in Phnom Penh as COVID-19 cases drop

A barricade blocks a small street leading to a red zone village at the Stung Meanchey II commune, Meanchey district in Phnom Penh, May 19, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
A barricade blocks a small street leading to a red zone village at the Stung Meanchey II commune, Meanchey district in Phnom Penh, May 19, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

The Phnom Penh government announced on Wednesday that there will be no more red zones in the capital, though dark yellow and yellow zones will remain.

In a decision signed by Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng on May 19, red zones in Tuol Kork, Meanchey, Russei Keo, and Pur Senchey were shifted to dark yellow, which entail less restrictive lockdown measures. Several parts of Doeum Chan village in Chbar Ampov II commune, Chbar Ampov district will remain demarcated as dark yellow zones.

The administrative measures set out for dark yellow zones state they are to be implemented for 7 days from midnight on May 20 to May 26. The yellow zones will be implemented for 14 days from midnight on May 20 until June 2.

Unlike in the red zones, those living in dark yellow zones are allowed to go outside and to shop for food or other necessities, but they are still barred from going to work. Phnom Penh faced a citywide lockdown from April 15-May 5, but some red zones have remained locked down since April 10.

Phun Phea, 26, a factory worker who lives in a rental room in Trea 4 village, in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey 3 commune said that her area has been locked down for more than one month and she and her relatives are facing difficulties because they have no income.

“We do not work, so we could not have income to pay expenses each day,” she said. “The most important thing is we do not have money to pay for the rental room and electricity and water.”

Phea shares her room with three relatives, but because food aid is allocated per house, rather than per person, they are still struggling.

“We received gifts twice already but we still face a foot shortage because we have four members in the room and we do not have money to buy meat, fish, and vegetables to eat each day,” she said.

Because they still cannot go to work, said Phea, she and her neighbors are likely to continue to struggle in spite of the changing designation.

“I appeal to the government and as well as local authorities, please help us because we still do not go to work yet,” said Phea.  

Met Measpheakdey, city hall spokesman, said the government would announce Friday whether state markets will be allowed to reopen. He said currently all other businesses are allowed to reopen, except cinema, schools, and gyms.

A woman walks in a red zone at the Choam Chao I commune, Pur Senchey district in Phnom Penh, May 19, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

San Sok Seiha, spokesman for the Phnom Penh police said that the 8pm to 3am curfew will continue until City Hall announces otherwise.

“We wait to implement it based on Phnom Penh municipality’s decision,” Seiha said,

He added that he appeals to all people to continue to cooperate with the authorities so that the virus can fully be brought under control.

Moeun Tola, executive director of labor rights group CENTRAL, said it is good the government was readjusting zones based on dropping infection rates.

“I think that the dark yellow zones face restrictions but it is better than the red zones because the people are allowed outside to buy something,” Tola said, adding that he requests the government to help citizens and workers who will continue to struggle financially when banned from going to work.

“They [people in dark yellow zones] continue to face food shortages, so please can the authorities continue to help them,” he said.

He said provinces that face COVID-19 outbreaks should learn from missteps in Phnom Penh and distribute food right away, rather than waiting until people are begging on social media.

“So the necessary requirement is basic: they should be distributing food to people in the lockdown area including red zones or dark yellow zones,” Tola said.

The Ministry of Health reported 393 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total case count to 23,282 since the pandemic began in 2020. The ministry has recorded 14,955 recovered cases and 159 deaths.

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