Cambodia Reports Eight New Locally Transmitted COVID-19 Cases

A medical official (L) checks the temperature of a migrant worker at a school in Phnom Penh on April 20, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
  • Phoung Vantha
  • November 30, 2020 4:36 AM

The first case of community transmission since April 2020 has been recorded in Cambodia and already 14 people have tested positive in relation to the Nov. 28 outbreak, prompting schools, museums and cinemas to close as more samples are being analyzed by the Ministry of Health.

PHNOM PENH--The Ministry of Health announced on Monday (Nov. 30) that eight new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in connection to the wife of Chhem Savuth—director of the General Department of Prisons.

Savuth’s wife, 56, appears to have contracted the virus without having left the country recently, prompting fears that the source of her infection remains unknown. She then set about traveling around Phnom Penh and Siem Reap Province, despite having developed COVID-19 symptoms. She sought testing at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh three days after she displayed symptoms.

Venues she had visited, including Aeon Mall 1 and the Phnom Penh Hotel, have closed temporarily following this latest outbreak of community transmission.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that this outbreak be referred to as the “Nov. 28 community event,” which saw six family members of Savuth contract the virus.

The Health Ministry said that eight more people in Phnom Penh have now tested positive as of Nov. 30, including a 36-year-old woman, the wife of a deputy-director of the General Department of Prisons. She resides in Khan Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh.

Similarly, a 24-year-old woman married to an official within the Ministry of the Interior’s Information Department has also tested positive in Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh.

The other six new cases were found in Khan Chbar Ampov, Phnom Penh and include a 45-year-old woman whose nephew was infected on Nov. 28, a 30-year-old woman married to a driver who caught the virus on Nov. 28, two men and a woman who all came into direct contact with a COVID-19 patient from the Nov. 28 community outbreak and a 7-year-old boy whose aunt was involved in the Nov. 28 event.

All 14 people who have been identified so far as having caught the virus from the Nov. 28 outbreak have been hospitalized and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

The Health Ministry added that they have so far tested more 3,332 people, but that as of 1.30 a.m. on Nov. 30 only 2,248 samples had been fully analyzed.

Given the travels of Savuth’s wife and the people she came into contact with, health authorities are now targeting Phnom Penh and the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear, and Siem Reap. Provincial Health Departments have established quarantine centers in each province and have encouraged people to get tested for COVID-19 if they came into direct or indirect contact with an infected person.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen has ordered the Ministry of Health to provide 20,000 riels—roughly $5—to low income families who need to self-isolate. This will be issued through the existing ID Poor Program.

On Nov. 30, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts ordered the temporary closure of cinemas, arts performing venues and museums for two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19. Similarly, on Nov. 29 the Ministry of Education announced that private school would once again have to close, except for 12th grade students preparing to take the national exam. Public schools will also end their academic year 2019-2020 early and close, but also with the exception of 12th grade students preparing for exams.

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