COVID 19 -- Khmer New Year: Beware, Danger! 

FILE: Cambodian people walk in front of Angkor Wat temple during Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap province on April 14, 2018. (Photo: AFP)
  • Lim Tola
  • March 29, 2020 7:20 AM

PHNOM PENH--With around two billion people throughout the world being confined to contain the pandemic, COVID-19 has compelled numerous countries to stop, reduce or delay all activities that are not essential to the lives of their people.  

Every moment one socializes is a risk factor. Hence mass cancellations, throughout the world, of sports, religious, festive or cultural events.

Experts believe that this killer epidemic that has struck Italy had as its starting point a European football match, which had attracted thousands of fans. As they went home, they carried the coronavirus and transmitted it to friends and family.  

In an attempt to find an explication to the drama that this European country is now going through, experts have looked into its demographic and social structure and noted two characteristics: first, that the proportion of aging people is higher than elsewhere and, second, that families may be living more together there than elsewhere, with several generations living under the same roof. Experts have postulated that young people showing no symptoms would more easily infect their elders or vulnerable people. The family, which is the center of intergenerational solidarity, would then turn into a nest of virus.   

Those observations call for mentioning that here, in Cambodia, New Year is coming up: A celebration marked by family gatherings with tens of thousands of people travelling throughout the country as people go to the provinces to celebrate with friends and family in their native villages.  

When we are with our families, we may easily feel that we are protected since we are not in contact, or at least less in contact, with strangers since we are not, or are less, in public spaces.

As one celebrates with some drinking, one may set aside the hygiene practices and social distancing that are recommended for people to protect themselves and others from this deadly virus. 

At the speed at which this pandemic is evolving, it would be conceited to predict what the situation will be in the country by New Year. 

The authorities have announced that they may resort to declaring a state of emergency if the situation calls for it. 

Let’s hope, wholeheartedly, that this will not happen as this would truly affect this celebration, which is so needed at this extremely stressing time.  

In any case, it will be everyone’s responsibility to make sure that the Khmer New Year does not turn into an accelerating factor of the epidemic in the country. 

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