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Cambodia ends curfew amid easing of pandemic restrictions

Although Covid-19 cases have been falling, outbreaks in prisons remain a major concern

Cambodia ends curfew amid easing of pandemic restrictions

A soldier gives instructions as people wait to receive the second dose of China's Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine at a pagoda in Phnom Penh on May 20. (Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Cambodia has ended a nighttime curfew and lifted a ban on alcohol sales, which were imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 after a third communal outbreak resulted in cases spiraling and at least 165 deaths.

Social distancing, the wearing of masks and QR scanning before entering buildings and restaurants will remain, with heavy fines and possible jail terms imposed for those who violate the health rules.

More than 2,000 people have been detained for violating the curfew since it was imposed on April 15. Of them, 11 were jailed.

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However, the directive issued by the Phnom Penh municipal administration said entertainment clubs, including karaoke, nightclubs and beer gardens, massage therapy businesses, casinos, cinemas, theaters, museums, fitness centers and the like, would remain closed until further notice.

Authorities had divided Phnom Penh into red, orange and yellow zones. All red zones, hotspots where people were confined to their homes, have been eliminated and the capital is predominantly yellow, enabling the easing.

The number of confirmed Covid cases has fallen from a peak of around 1,000 a day to about 400, but major outbreaks are still being detected in provinces and in the prison system, where visits and legal hearings have been curtailed.

We put them in quarantine not just for 14 days but 20 days because this newly formed virus takes too long before showing symptoms

Eighteen inmates tested positive last week at Prey Sar Correctional Center I and have been placed in quarantine. Court cases have also been postponed due to transport issues between the prison and the municipal court.

Interior Ministry prisons department spokesperson Nuth Savna told Voice of Democracy that the source of the outbreak had yet to be detected and those in detention were being moved out of buildings where patients had been incarcerated.

“We are worried and, because the disease is spreading so fast, we are [finding it] difficult to identify the source. It is worrying,” Nuth Savna said.

He said the concern was that new positive cases would not show up in first tests and might only be found after second tests.

“The new measure is that those who go to get treatment at an outside clinic, we do not put them back in their original room,” Nuth Savna told the online news portal.

“We put them in quarantine not just for 14 days but 20 days because this newly formed virus takes too long before showing symptoms.”

Cambodia recorded fewer than 500 Covid-19 infections during the first year of the pandemic.

Since the February 20 Community Event, that number has soared to 24,157 cases, mostly the highly contagious UK variant, with 16,524 recoveries. Also worrying is the Indian variant which has been detected in Thailand among five Cambodian construction workers.

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