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Cambodia confirms first community Covid-19 outbreak

Malls, hotels, cinemas, museums and private schools to close, self-isolation and masks encouraged

Cambodia confirms first community Covid-19 outbreak

Buddhist monks walk in the compound of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on Nov. 29. A Covid-19 testing station has been established in Siem Reap. (Photo: AFP)

Cambodia has confirmed a cluster of 14 new Covid-19 cases, the biggest outbreak since the disease was initially reported about nine months ago, resulting in the closure of a major shopping mall and a large hotel, with at least 3,300 people potentially involved.

Government ministries and sources said the outbreak occurred at the Aeon-1 City Mall — a modern Japanese venture — and had been traced to the wife of this country’s director-general of prisons, Chhem Savuth, who was shopping there on Nov. 28.

At least 3,332 people will be tested three times over the next two weeks. Of the 14 confirmed cases detected so far, Chhem Savuth and his wife and four family members were among those who tested positive.

The Phnom Penh Hotel was also closed for at least two days after a newly infected patient used the swimming pool and gym facilities, while private schools and universities had closed, with students returning to online learning for at least the next two weeks.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on the government-friendly news portal Fresh News that Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Justice Minister Keut Rith and Bin Chhin, the minister in charge of the cabinet, would be quarantined after meeting with Chhem Savuth and would need to go into quarantine.

He said there would not be a general order to close government schools. However, the ministry of education, youth and sports has ordered the two-week closure of private educational institutions at all levels nationwide to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“The decision was made following the first-ever community transmission case detected on Saturday,” the ministry said.

Testing stations have been established at Prey Sar Prison and Aeon Mall and in the northwest provincial city of Siem Reap. The health ministry said the potentially infected had come from seven different provinces.

“This time is a very important stage for all people to unite together to implement these important health measures of the ministry of health in order to prevent community transmission on a large scale and for the people to continue their normal living in a new way,” it said.

Meanwhile, the ministry of culture and fine arts said in a one-sentence press release that cinemas, museums and theaters would also close across the country for at least 14 days.

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Cambodia has emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic. The latest cases bring the total number of confirmed Covid-19 carriers to 323 with 301 recovered and no deaths.

Nearly all these cases were detected among passengers arriving by flight from overseas destinations.

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