PM allows trade as cluster cases jump

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Foreigners wait for Covid-19 test at the National Institute of Public Health laboratory in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Health has updated details regarding the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 as recorded infections passed 100 over night. At the same time, Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued orders for governors in border provinces to continue allowing exports.

Hun Sen’s statements came during a recorded message on February 24 after learning that the General Department of Immigration (GDI) had instructed officials in border provinces, especially those at the Pailin checkpoint, not to allow Cambodians to transport produce to the Thai border beginning on February 25.

“We must strengthen quarantine controls along the borders to avoid importing the disease from abroad, but the transport of goods to neighbouring countries should still continue as normal,” Hun Sen said.

“If the GDI has really put a ban on transporting goods to Thailand, I will ask Minister of Interior Sar Kheng to investigate and lift it so that people along the borders may conduct business as usual.

“Furthermore, we should try to do something for them to facilitate increasing exports,” he said, adding that the government’s intention has been to institute proper quarantine procedures for travellers while enabling trade to proceed efficiently.

“I ask all provinces on the borders to accept responsibility and take action so that the people may still continue to do business with neighbouring countries with the support of our authorities. We cannot allow Covid to damage our economy further,” Hun Sen said.

“When issuing orders relating to the borders, please kindly let me know because I am responsible for the problems of political affairs in the country and its foreign policy.

“This is a matter to be dealt with urgently and I ask the border provinces to report directly to me if there are problems with trade on the frontier,” he stressed.

Regarding the February 20 community event, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 137 in just four days, comprising mostly Chinese nationals and including 71 women.

The health ministry repeated pleas for the public to remain vigilant and comply with safety measures as well as avoid unnecessary travel while the outbreak remains uncontained.

In a press release on February 24, it said 40 new cases had been detected, of which 38 were infected in connection with the February 20 community transmission. The other two have been labelled as imported cases.

The ministry noted that its working group is now searching for 15 of the 38 people whose Covid-19 test results were confirmed positive by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge at 3am on February 24.

“The working group is working to locate them and will provide more details upon receiving information from them,” the press release said.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said everyone in the community must cooperate in a spirit of solidarity to contain the outbreak.

As of February 24, Cambodia had recorded a total of 633 Covid-19 cases. Not including the 15 people being sought, 142 patients are receiving treatment in hospitals.

The two cases suspected of being imported involved Chinese women, aged 35 and 22, in Preah Sihanouk province who tested positive on February 22 as part of health certification procedures in preparation for their return to China. They are being treated at the provincial referral hospital.

The women had been guests at the Jin Bei Palace Hotel, and following discovery of their infections, provincial governor Kouch Chamroeun informed the owners the Jin Bei Group Company that their business operations in the province would be suspended immediately.

“In order to curb the community transmission of Covid-19, I must suspend the operations of the three branches of the hotel and the company’s shared accommodation building.

“No new guests will be permitted to stay there, and current guests will not be allowed to leave without permission from authorities,” Chamroeun said.

He added that the provincial health officials would inspect the sites and test guests and staff. If management fails to implement instructions, administration officials would act to enforce legal and procedural measures.