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Travel between provinces banned for two weeks: PM

People arrive at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, one of four state hospitals allocated for COVID-19 patients, in Phnom Penh, March 11, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
People arrive at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, one of four state hospitals allocated for COVID-19 patients, in Phnom Penh, March 11, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday banned travel between provinces for two weeks and ordered health officials to prepare to treat non-severe COVID-19 patients at home as the O’Russei cluster rose to 36 and officials prepare vaccine rollouts to the country’s garment workers.

Inter-provincial travel is banned from April 7-20 to contain the pandemic over the Khmer New Year, with exceptions for emergencies, cargo transport, worker transport and special cases, and travel between Phnom Penh and Kandal province, according to a statement signed by Hun Sen on April 6.

Tourist sites and resorts must close from April 7-20 and provincial administrations have the power to ban travel between districts and communes at their discretion, the statement said.

Earlier in the day, he said that at least 50 percent of COVID-19 patients could be treated at home, following the lead of the U.S and Europe as the February 20 cluster reached 2293, pushing hospitals to capacity.

“We cannot accept all patients … as the number of infections increases, no matter how many hospitals we set up, we cannot put them,” Hun Sen said in a voice recording released by state news Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP).

“If the patients’ houses are small, they have to come to the hospital for treatment,” he said, adding that a working group would decide which patients went to hospital and which stayed at home and that the Health Ministry and local authorities would monitor patients.

Local health officials would be in charge of treatment, he said, and at-home patients are entitled to a $5 daily allowance from the government.

“In case we suspect that any patient gets serious, we have to send them to hospital for treatment immediately,” Hun Sen said. “So if the patients have an appropriate house, [we] could keep them at their home for treatment to reduce crowdedness at the hospital.

Phnom Penh Health Department director Ngy Mean Heng said that severe case would need to be hospitalized for respiratory issues, while for others COVID-19 was more like a bad flu.

Healthcare workers take details of staff at a restaurant linked to the COVID-19 cluster at O’Russei market, in Phnom Penh, April 5, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Healthcare workers take details of staff at a restaurant linked to the COVID-19 cluster at O’Russei market, in Phnom Penh, April 5, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of human rights group Licadho, commended the move but called for health officials tasked with treating patients at home to be closely monitored.   

“The ethics of health officials, they must not discriminate against any patients, they must implement as equal,” he said. “This is a point that concerns us.”

The Ministry of Health said that 20 more positive cases have been found among vendors and other staff at O’Russei Market, which was shut down for two weeks on Sunday after vendors and a security guard tested positive for the virus.

The Ministry called for vendors or visitors to the market who experience symptoms to come forward for testing.

Ahead of the Khmer New Year, new measures are being introduced across the country to contain the pandemic, starting with Phnom Penh, where gatherings will be limited to people in their own households.

Also, 60 teams of health officials have been assembled to begin rolling out vaccinations to the country’s garment workers, which is set to begin along Veng Sreng Boulevard and along National Roads 3 and 4 on April 7, the Labor Ministry said in a statement Monday. Each team can deliver 400 injections per day.

Ministry spokesman Heng Suor could not be reached for comment.

Just nine vehicles were confiscated in Phnom Penh on Monday night from motorists violating the two-week 8 p.m. curfew, after more than 150 were taken on the first three nights.

Cambodia’s tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 2824 on Tuesday, 2293 of which are connected to the February 20 Outbreak, with 22 dead, the Health Ministry announced.

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