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Cambodia locks down provincial borders as Covid-19 spikes

Prime Minister Hun Sen says lockdown could be extended and vaccinations made mandatory

Cambodia locks down provincial borders as Covid-19 spikes

An official is inoculated with a dose of China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh on April 1. (Photo: AFP)

The Cambodian government has closed its provincial borders as pandemic numbers continue to rise sharply and warned a current nighttime curfew could be extended.

Health officials reported a further 91 new cases of Covid-19 on April 7 with at least 22 deaths as testing continues at rate of about 4,000 people a day.

Of the latest cases, one was a 33-year-old Indonesian man who returned from Indonesia by air on April 5.

However, the remaining 90 were all involved with what is known locally as the February 20 Community Event, blamed on two Chinese women who broke quarantine, leading to the current outbreak of the UK variant of the contagion.

Since then numbers have soared to 2,915, which compares with just 484 cases — and no deaths — registered in the first year of the pandemic when Cambodia was widely applauded for its handling of the pandemic.

In response, the government has shut all provincial borders overnight and warned a current curfew between 8pm and 5am could be extended by at least two weeks unless case numbers show a significant decline.

The borders are expected to remain closed until April 22, according to a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a move intended to break the chain of transmission.

Travel restrictions were imposed ahead of the Khmer New Year to be celebrated next week.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said there were serious concerns with the upcoming three-day New Year holiday, when Cambodians traditionally return to their home villages, and this could prove disastrous during a pandemic.

“Especially for those in Phnom Penh, I know people want to return to their hometowns, but I beg them to reconsider because it just isn’t the right thing to do this year,” she said, according to a report by the Phnom Penh Post.

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The provincial border closures — there are 24 provinces in Cambodia — were announced as Hun Sen suggested that Covid-19 vaccinations could become mandatory.

“Soon in the world, vaccines can become mandatory, this is my expectation,” he said, according to a report by the Khmer Times.

“I think those who have not been vaccinated are the unfortunate ones who may not be able to get a jab or be welcomed by those who have been vaccinated, which creates discrimination.”

However, Cambodia is relying on the Astra Zeneca vaccination for people aged over 60, which has been controversial in many countries where rollouts have been delayed and further tests are being conducted amid fears the vaccine is dangerous for people prone to blood clots.

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