End to Covid lockdown met with mixed feelings

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Barricades are set up on National Road 2 at the northern entrance to Kandal province’s Takmao town. Hean Rangsey

With optimism running high as the capital and Takmao town prepare to emerge from lockdown on May 6, Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng hinted that currently-designated orange and yellow zones will retain their status and that some red zones could be downgraded to yellow or orange.

A May 3 prime ministerial decision confirmed the end of the lockdown, but noted that the capital and provincial administrations reserve the right to implement other measures in their jurisdictions, as the situation dictates, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Any measures taken must comply with relevant sub-decrees supporting the Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases, the decision read.

The government first placed Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province under lockdown on April 15, in a move to control Covid-19 transmission from the February 20 community outbreak, which has brought the total number of infections to more than 14,000.

Nearly three weeks on, Phnom Penh continues to record the majority of cases, with 525 new infections and three more deaths reported in the capital on May 3 alone.

The lockdown has had far-reaching impacts, leaving some people inside and outside of Phnom Penh stranded – and even cash-strapped. One of them went so far as to bring his plight to the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In response, Hun Sen had said the government was to reopen the capital and Takmao.

“There is no reason to continue the lockdown, but the capital or provinces can cordon off small areas that are still at high risk of transmission.

“Imposing the lockdown was a tough decision made by the government to prevent transmission and the deaths of our people,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.

But with daily infections soaring, it remains to be seen to what extent the rules of the colour-coded zones in the once-bustling capital and town will be scaled back.

Fresh News quoted the Phnom Penh municipal governor as saying: “We will still maintain the three zones we designated and they will be strictly monitored in order to curb the spread of the disease.”

Hok Kim Cheng, the Ministry of Health’s technical director-general, on May 3 said the lockdown commission would hold a meeting with all relevant authorities to discuss the reopening.

Say Phalla, a resident in a red zone of Meanchey district, said voiced concerns over the potential ramifications of ending the lockdown too quickly.

“I think staying home is safer. But I support the plan to lift the lockdown. It will enable vendors and others to earn income again. Personally, I am still afraid because if we look at the number of new cases, it has not decreased.

“What really concerns me is that when the lockdown is lifted, then the transmissions may become uncontrollable,” she said.