Two areas in Siem Reap city have been declared red zones for two weeks by the provincial authority following serious COVID-19 outbreaks last week. So far, at least 140 people in Soutr Nikum and Chi Kreng district have tested positive for the virus since June 4, including a commune chief, bank staff and local police officials. At least one man has died already.
The two restricted zones are made up of four villages in Siem Reap city’s Sra Nge commune as well as Kampong Khlaing commune in Soutr Nikum district. Kork Thlok Krom commune in Chi Kreng district has been designated as a dark yellow zone, while Kampong Kdei commune in Chi Kreng district has been declared a yellow zone. The restrictions will remain in place until June 22.
Following the announcement of the new measures last night, individuals living in the red zones are barred from leaving their current homes or residences. Travel outside of their home is only permitted in cases of emergency medical trips, visits to health officials for COVID-19 tests or to receive a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Siem Reap provincial governor Tea Seiha said on Thursday that Kampong Khlaing commune had been declared a red zone as a result of the commune chief and two commune councilors testing positive for COVID-19.
“Because they are people who provide public services for citizens in that area, I think that they have had contact with many citizens,” he said. “We decided to lock the area down and collect citizens’ samples throughout the lockdown area.”
Kork Thlok Krom commune in Chi Kreng district and Damdek commune in Soutr Nikum were designated as dark yellow zones due to Soutr Nikum district police officials and staff from the local World Natural Restaurant testing positive for the virus.
“The Soutr Nikum district police chief and his nine police officials have been infected with COVID-19,” Seiha said, adding that those police officials had dined at World Natural Restaurant in Chi Kreng district.
The new restrictions are hoped to slow the spread of COVID-19 following fears that the virus may have spread to other districts. The governor said that a number of people who had tested positive for the virus had informed authorities that they had travelled to central Siem Reap, including visiting markets.
“We appeal to all the people who had food at the restaurant and the people who had contact with COVID-19 patients to go to provide their samples,” he said. The governor said that based on the figure that he had received on Wednesday, there were between 300 to 400 people who had gone to take a COVID-19 test after having come into contact with positive cases.
“I think that if all relevant people cooperate with our authorities, we can control this situation,” he said.
Siem Reap administration spokesman Ly Samreth said that a total of 299 people had tested positive for COVID-19 since the February 20 outbreak, with 103 recoveries and three deaths so far.
He added that the provincial authority’s decision was partly due to the death of a man who had caught the virus from his son, who worked for Acleda Bank in Soutr Nikum district.
“There are many people who had contact with the [bank staff member] because he went to many places,” he said. “It’s still a complicated situation, so we decided to lock down that area.”
Soutr Nikum district governor Mak Pros told CamboJA that more than 3,000 families lived in the now-restricted Kampong Khlaing commune. He added that a total of 63 people had tested positive in the commune since June 4, and that authorities had so far found 960 people who had potentially come into contact with positive COVID-19 cases. The district branches of ABA Bank and Acleda Bank were closed after some staff tested positive for the virus.
Sar Vannara, Siem Reap provincial coordinator for human rights group Licadho, said that the new restrictions could have a negative effect on domestic tourism.
“If there were a red zone, the tourism sector would be seriously impacted,” Vannara said. He added that about 90 percent of hotels and guesthouses had been closed due to the pandemic.
The capital of Phnom Penh has also seen a return to restricted areas. On Wednesday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration designated some areas of Choam Chao 3 village in Choam Chao 2 commune as well as some areas of Prey Pring Khang Choeung 2, Trapaing Pur, Chumpouvan 2 of Choam Chao 3 commune in Pur Senchey district as dark yellow zones due to the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions will remain in place until June 23.
People living in the dark yellow zones are not allowed to leave their homes except to buy food and other necessities, or for work purposes provided they have permission from the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported 426 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total count to 36,666 since the pandemic began in early 2020. The large majority of these cases have been recorded since February 20 — when the ongoing community outbreak began. The ministry has also recorded 29,807 recovered cases and 300 deaths from the virus.