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Cambodia imposes harsh laws as Covid numbers spike

Worst day yet with more than 100 pandemic cases confirmed in the Southeast Asian country

Cambodia imposes harsh laws as Covid numbers spike

People wait to receive Covid-19 vaccines at a hospital in Phnom Penh on March 10. Cambodia recorded its worst pandemic day on March 16 with 105 confirmed cases. (Photo: AFP)

Cambodia has recorded its worst pandemic day yet with 105 Covid-19 cases confirmed as the government imposes harsher measures in an attempt to curb the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

On-the-spot fines have been imposed for not carrying and not wearing masks, domestic travel has been severely restricted with major highways closed and large swathes of suburban Phnom Penh shut down.

The Health Ministry said 105 new cases of Covid-19 had been reported with 88 patients recovered. Cambodian, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese nationals made up the cases from Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Prey Veng and Kandal provinces and Phnom Penh. They were aged 4-71.

The ministry said all 105 were related to this country’s third community outbreak known as the “February 20 event.” To date, Cambodia has confirmed 1,430 cases of Covid-19 with 818 recoveries.

One death has been attributed to the pandemic while another two people infected with the virus had died from heart attacks, the ministry has said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has told provincial governors they had the powers to ban gatherings after two men who attended wedding receptions in Kampot and Takeo provinces tested positive.

“I have given the power to the provincial and municipal authorities to shut down or reopen areas to suspend or resume any gathering because the situation is different from one province to another,” he said.

He said Phnom Penh and many provinces had already suspended gatherings such as weddings but small wedding rituals would be allowed. The capital and provincial cities were quiet as Cambodians evacuated the cities for their home villages in the countryside.

The numbers were released as the government signaled it would crack down hard on people flouting quarantines and laws designed to stop the spread. The “February 20 event” has been blamed on four Chinese women who breached quarantine and went out partying.

In response to breaches, the government has imposed the Law on Preventive Measures against the Spread of Covid-19 and other Severe and Dangerous Contagious Diseases and is warning it could reveal the identities of those attempting to flout the law.

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“We are discussing the point of revealing the identity, but the important thing is that if you do not want the ministry to disclose your identities, please be honest,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said.

“When health officials ask you to show it, do not hide it because in the past some people did hide it. They did not dare to speak out about it,” she said regarding Covid tests and tracing amid the second community outbreak in November.

“We do not know why they did not dare to say it. If you do not cooperate in providing complete information to the research team, the Ministry of Health has no choice but to reveal the identity of the person,” she added.

The new law includes heavy fines and jail terms of up to 10 years for people convicted of intentionally spreading the disease.

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