Cash-strapped citizens unfazed by Covid threat

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Hand sanitiser bottles for sale are seen at a sales booth in Phnom Penh. Hean Rangsey

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine has warned all people living in Cambodia to continue wearing masks and applying hand sanitiser to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

She said she noticed that many in the Kingdom are not paying much attention to the virus, despite its potential to dangerously spread like wildfire in communities.

Vandine noted that many people are feeling a false sense of security because the most recent Covid-19 cases reported in Cambodia have all been imported.

She said such a lax attitude diminishes the common knowledge that Covid-19 can spread uncontrollably and without notice from community to community if proper prevention methods aren’t practised. People who don’t protect themselves are running the risk of infecting communities, she stressed.

“We observe that some of our people do not wear masks to protect themselves when they go out or gather outside with many others who also aren’t wearing masks.

“Therefore, the possibility of Covid-19 spreading still exists, and this transmission can happen at anytime and anywhere, especially when people are moving from one place to another,” she said.

Song Sreynouch, a vendor who stocks alcohol and hand sanitiser gel in Meanchey district’s Boeung Tompun commune in Phnom Penh, said sales are down and much lower than when the pandemic was first reported in the Kingdom.

“I think our people love money more than health. They may think that the alcohol, which cost 10,000 riel ($2.50) per bottle is expensive, that’s why they don’t buy it,” Sreynouch said.

Chhum Borin, a mask seller in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Leu commune, said some people don’t want to spend money on masks because they’re struggling to keep their heads financially above water.

“Let’s think. One mask costs 1,000 riel and can be used only once before it’s thrown away. So, if we use one mask in the morning and another one in the evening, then we will need to spend 2,000 riel a day.

“This does not include the cost of alcohol [sanitiser]. Therefore, I think some people have financial challenges with their livelihood, which is why they are not buying the masks,” he said.

Nov Chenda, a PassApp driver in Phnom Penh, said he was worried about contracting Covid-19 because it’s his job to transport passengers to different places. He said he always wears a mask and never forgets to keep a container of alcohol handy.

He said he refuses to drive foreign passengers – a choice he believes further protects him from the virus.

Van Nary, a mask seller on Street 271 in the capital, said most people no longer care about wearing masks. She used to regularly sell out of masks, but now hardly sells any.

“Of course, even I do not care much about wearing a mask because I mostly sell from my home. Besides, wearing a mask makes it difficult to breathe. I couldn’t wear it for a long time. If a customer comes to buy masks, I would wear one if they are foreigners. Otherwise, no need,” she said.

A former factory worker and resident of Sen Sok district’s Teuk Thla commune known as Linda also said Covid-19 is not a major concern at the moment.

The main problems on peoples’ minds, she said, are a lack of rice for cooking, paying their house rent, utility bills, and not having enough money left over for daily expenses.

“If the factory was operating normally, I would still go to work as usual, not caring about Covid-19 or whatever,” she said.

Vandine said people would likely travel for entertainment and vacation purposes from August 17-21, which was granted by Prime Minister Hun Sen as replacement for the April Khmer New Year holidays.

“But please be very careful. No matter where you go, do not forget to protect yourself from being infected with the Covid-19 virus,” Vandine said.

The health ministry said as of August 5, Cambodia had a total of 243 Covid-19 patients, 196 of whom are men. Of the total number of patients, 202 (157 men) had recovered. A total of 41 patients are being treated at hospital and one at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

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