Health officials said the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 has begun rapidly spreading in Phnom Penh and other provinces, after a series of outbreaks in provinces bordering Thailand.
A report by the Ministry of Health shows that as of August 2, Cambodia had detected a total of 223 new cases of Delta variant. In just two days, from July 31 to August 1, 109 new cases of the variant were found in Phnom Penh.
Infections have been found thus far in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Salang commune and Tuol Sangke I commune in Russei Keo district.
Phnom Penh City Hall announced it was installing a blockade around Phsar Touch Village in Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke I commune for seven days, starting from August 3, 2021, to research the new strain and prevent its spread. Health officials on Monday began testing everyone in the community.
The City Hall announcement warns that legal action, including fines and imprisonment, will be taken against those who violate the order in accordance with the Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 and Infectious Diseases.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Keut Chhe said authorities are working on contact tracing in the two communes in which the virus has been found.
“We are taking additional measures to prevent the spread of Delta and we call on the people to be very careful,” he said. “Despite the efforts of the government and the Ministry of Health, we urge the people to take action together to stop the Delta.”
Tuol Kork district governor Ek Khun Doeun said that more than 300 people in village 5 in Boeng Salang commune, Tuol Kork district, were tested on Sunday night.
“Five people tested positive but I do not know if it was the new virus [and we are] waiting for confirmation from experts,” he said. “Now the whole village is locking down and authorities disseminated the information to the people.”
Or Vandine, Health Ministry’s spokesman said in a tweet that the government was starting a health education campaign “ASAP” amid the spread of Delta.
“We must act responsibly together if we do not want to go through a public health disaster later on,” she wrote.
Most cases of infection by the Delta variant, which is many times more contagious than the original strain of the novel coronavirus, have been found among Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand.
The Cambodian government has locked down eight provinces along the Thai border in order to curb the spread of the new variant and installed nationwide restrictions, including curfew measures.
Ly Samreth, deputy governor and spokesman of Siem Reap province, told CamboJA that the province found new cases of Delta variant COVID-19 mostly in migrant workers from Thailand, but some in the community.
“The cause of the infection in the community was that some migrant workers who were placed in 14-day quarantine after returning from Thailand did not show any symptoms, so the authorities allowed them to return home, but a week later they found Delta variant,” he said.
However, he said, currently, there are few migrant workers returning from Thailand as the border between Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey has been closed.
Samreth said that the province is partially restricting travel and has set up separate quarantine centers for migrant workers from Thailand.
Kong Sophorn, Kandal province governor, said Monday that two new cases of the Delta variant were found in the Lvea Em and Koh Thom districts on Sunday.
The infected person in Lvea Em “is always traveling back and forth for doing business in Phnom Penh and we are now researching others who were in contact with him,” he said. “However, his family was found negative and we tested more than 60 people in the village.”
Cambodia so far has vaccinated more than 7.4 million people with at least one dose.
The government on Sunday began its campaign to vaccinate children aged 12 to 17, beginning in Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the government planned to provide a third “booster” dose of AstraZeneca to adults who have been fully vaccinated with the Chinese Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines.
On Monday, Cambodia reported 560 new cases of COVID-19 including 169 imported cases and 22 deaths, bringing the total count to 78,474 and 1,442deaths. The ministry has also recorded 71,517 recovered cases.