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Cambodian lockdowns to end despite record pandemic numbers

Prime Minister Hun Sen invites football stars Messi and Neymar to visit the country

Cambodian lockdowns to end despite record pandemic numbers

A man receives a dose of China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at the Australian Centre for Education in Phnom Penh on May 1, part of the government's campaign to halt the rising number of cases. (Photo: AFP)

Despite the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases remaining stubbornly high, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen says lockdowns will end in two days as scheduled. However, harsh health measures imposed over the last month will remain in high-risk areas.

An "optimistic" Hun Sen made the announcement late May 2 and followed up by inviting international soccer stars Lionel Messi and Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. to visit Cambodia once the pandemic is over.

“We will only impose lockdown on any city or province that has a high risk of Covid-19 infection. Previously, we had no choice but to impose lockdowns to curb Covid-19 and save people’s lives,” the PM said, according to the government-friendly Fresh News service.

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Whether Messi and Neymar will accept the invitation is not known but it was extended as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Cambodia reached 14,520. About 9,000 known cases are still active and 103 people have died.

Nearly all cases have been confirmed in the last two months following the February 20 Community Event when a breach in hotel quarantine resulted in a spread of the UK variant of the disease.

Li Ailan, the World Health Organization's representative in Cambodia, warned of a prolonged pandemic and of the need to be careful when relaxing lockdown measures.

Relaxing Covid-19 measures too fast and too soon means a possible surge

“There is no reason to continue the lockdown, but the capital or provinces can cordon off small areas that are still at high risk of transmission,” she said online. “The virus is still circulating. Relaxing Covid-19 measures too fast and too soon means a possible surge.” 

Health authorities confirmed another 728 people linked to the latest outbreak had tested positive on May 2 in about half of the county’s 24 provinces, including Sihanoukville, Kampot, Takeo, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Steung Treng, Pursat, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap.

The government-friendly Khmer Times ran the headline “Black Sunday to be followed by Black Monday …” and said the number of confirmed cases to be announced later on May 3 was expected to exceed 800, near another record high.

“Unofficial results reveal that at least 800 new cases have been detected and logged last night, comprising garment factory workers and market traders in a number of provinces,” it said without quoting sources.

Hun Sen also urged people who have not been inoculated to remain calm, adding the government would follow through with the vaccination of all people in Phnom Penh and neighboring Kandal province by June.

Police also announced further arrests of people flouting the stringent rules, including an alcohol ban. Battambang police in the country’s west arrested 26 men and women who crowded into a karaoke bar where a bag of methamphetamine was also seized.

VIDEO: Cambodians plead for food

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