A woman buys corn at a market in Phnom Penh on July 24. Cambodia is restricting flights after a spike in coronavirus cases. (Photo: AFP)
The Cambodian government has suspended flights from Malaysia and Indonesia amid a spike in Covid-19 cases following a decision made by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the request of health authorities.
The government said the suspension, effective Aug. 1, is aimed at reducing the risk of “imported Covid-19 transmission” as too many recent cases have been found among passengers coming from those two countries.
The ban would contribute “to strengthening health safety for people across the country because from August and September, Cambodia will have many holidays, and people will travel to different tourism destinations.”
“We therefore need to increase our vigilance in preventing the Covid-19 spread,” it said in a statement.
Cambodia, like Vietnam and Laos, has emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic, with 225 cases and no deaths. Of them, 147 patients have recovered.
But between June 20 and July 25, some 108 cases were detected out of 23,567 passengers arriving from Indonesia and Malaysia.
“People should not underestimate Covid-19. This respiratory disease is very serious, highly infectious and there is no cure yet,” Hun Sen said on his Facebook page.
Or Vandine, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Health, said 55 cases came from Malaysia and there is still a high possibility of community transmission of the highly contagious and potentially deadly pandemic in Cambodia.
“I would like to say that we cannot ignore the possible community transmission of Covid-19. Therefore, the Ministry of Health [has] urged again and again the citizens to continue their self-protection,” she told Agence Kampuchea Presse.
“Even though the 23 new Covid-19 cases reported are all imported, it's a lot, and we don't know what will happen next.”
Patients are being treated at the Chak Angre Krom Health Centre in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s first Covid-19 case was detected in Preah Sihanouk province in late January with the arrival of a cruise ship. Since then, the pandemic has reached 13 out of 25 provinces and capital Phnom Penh.
Doctors are baffled about why the spread of the new coronavirus was limited in Indochina, although the quick closure of borders and early lockdowns helped in containing the virus.
That also resulted in the postponement of the Khmer New Year five-day holiday, which will now be held from Aug. 17-21 during an already busy holiday season when Cambodians travel back to their home villages en masse.
Land borders with Vietnam, Laos and Thailand remain closed and Cambodia is struggling with tourism, a pillar of the local economy, grinding to a halt.