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Cambodia extends lockdowns as Covid numbers escalate

Travel ban imposed on India as confirmed cases spike in neighboring Thailand and Laos

Cambodia extends lockdowns as Covid numbers escalate

People wait to take a Covid-19 test in Phnom Penh on April 26 amid a restrictive lockdown introduced to try to halt a surge in cases. (Photo: AFP)

Cambodia has extended its lockdown measures as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases continues to rise by more than 500 a day. The pandemic is also hitting a critical point in neighboring Laos and Thailand.

In a bid to improve food distribution, the government has divided capital Phnom Penh’s lockdowns into three zones — red, orange and yellow — with people living in red zones facing absolute quarantine. The lockdowns have been extended by a week to May 5.

Local authorities and charities have been working around a nighttime curfew to ensure food gets to the poor. Among the hardest hit in the red zones, mainly in Phnom Penh’s outer suburbs, are garment workers who have been left without jobs and say food vendors are price gouging.

Cambodia has confirmed 11,063 Covid-19 cases. More than 10,500 cases and all 82 deaths have been recorded since the third community outbreak on Feb. 20.

Hun Manet, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said five hospitals and centers with 4,300 beds have been set up to treat Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.

“I would like to thank all team members for their active participation in this event,” he said in an online message. “Without the participation of everyone, we would not have been able to accomplish this great task in such a short time.”

Bun Heng also said the new B1617 variant detected in India is highly dangerous and contagious

However, some people continue to flout laws, which carry prison sentences, aimed at curbing the disease. In one instance police stopped a Rolls-Royce driven by an army officer with three Chinese nationals who were detained for not having the correct paperwork.

The story resonated and went viral online in a country where people often complain that the rich and Chinese receive special privileges enabling them to skirt health rules.

“The arrest of the four brings to mind the root cause of the February 20 Community Outbreak that set off a chain reaction which today has claimed 82 lives and more than 10,500 Covid-19 infections,” Swift News said in a report published by The Khmer Times.

It was a reference to four Chinese nationals who bribed their way out of quarantine, sparking the latest outbreak.

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Travel has also been banned from India, which has been ravaged by the pandemic.

“With permission from Prime Minister Hun Sen and having assessed the situation, the Ministry of Health decided to impose the ban until further notice,” Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said in a statement.

Bun Heng also said the new B1617 variant detected in India is highly dangerous and contagious. The ban applies to those who had been in India or traveled to and from the country in the last three weeks.

In Laos, which like Cambodia emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic in its first year, numbers have also surged in recent weeks, with more than 500 cases confirmed. Thailand has recorded nearly 62,000 cases.

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