Garbage Staff Fear Rise in Home-Treated Covid Cases

Trash collectors are collecting waste pilling up on a street in Phnom Penh. Photo Cintri

Workers say trash uncollected at patients’ homes

PHNOM PENH--Garbage collectors are growing more concerned as Covid-19 infections rise, and especially the number of patients being treated at home.

The Health Ministry says home-treated patients and their waste are properly taken care.

Nguon Pov, a Cintri garbage truck driver in Phnom Penh said he was worried about catching the virus because of the increase in home-treated patients. However, he and his team have increased their vigilance by wearing masks and gloves regularly when collecting garbage in areas linked to Covid-19.

“When I saw houses with white or yellow tape around, I was really worried,” he said.

“Those who collected garbage ride in the truck with me.

“Therefore, when seeing houses affected by the Covid-19 infection, my team and I will skip these houses and wait until there no more tape around them. We are afraid of getting infected too.”

Sun Nith, a garbage collector in Pov’s team, said he did not dare collect garbage from houses with prohibition signs as he feared that waste from those houses had not been properly managed.


A poster hung in front of a home in Phnom Penh indicates there is a patient receiving home care treatment. 

For Nith, skipping the houses of Covid-19 patients is not discrimination, but only to prevent infection.

“I do not dare to collect trash from houses bound with tape,” he said. “it’s not discriminatory, but I’m afraid of getting infected because the virus is invisible.

“Moreover, we don’t know how garbage has been taken care of. As the new coronavirus Delta variant is rapidly transmissible, we have to be more cautious.” 

A MIZUDA garbage collector in Dangkor district, Nget Moeun, said he regularly uses Covid-19 protection equipment while working because the Delta variant is a threat to people’s health.

“We have been advised that when collecting trash if there are houses or areas with forbidden signs, we should not look into garbage but carefully load into the truck,” Moeun said. “Then we have to clean our feet and hands.”

Hok Kim Cheng, director of the Ministry of Health's technology department, asked garbage collection teams not to worry because the health technical team always checked the issue properly. However, Kim Cheng will discuss this concern with the authorities to avoid waste pilling up at houses or areas involved with Covid-19.

“Doctors treat the home patients every day,” he said. “The doctors explain waste management to the patients as well.

“Waste should be kept separately for two to three days before being put out for the garbage collectors to collect. We need to work with the authorities, the patients, and the garbage collection companies to understand garbage management together.”

The ministry technical team and the World Health Organization have assessed that coronavirus cannot survive outside the human body for more than two to three days, Kim Cheng said, adding 3,000 Covid-19 patients are being treated at home in Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said that there has been no garbage congestion at the homes of Covid-19 patients or Covid-19 related areas since the division of waste collection areas was set for each company.

“I am happy to see that our citizens and garbage collectors fear Covid-19 and are more protective than before,” Khuong Sreng said.

“But they should not be overly scared. In some places, citizens tie tape around their houses by themselves to practice social distancing, while in some places, the medical expert teams tie it because those areas have been involved with Covid-19. However, this does not pose a problem because Covid-19 patients in the houses have received very clear treatment.”

On July 9, Khuong Sreng advised home-treated Covid-19 patients to properly dispose of their garbage to avoid transmissions to others, while the number of Covid-19 patients continues to surge.

A patient who does not adhere to the instructions and transmits the virus to others is liable to five to ten years in prison, he said.

Khuong Sreng also did not talk about cases of anyone violating the authority’s instruction but he said these were to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and not intended to take action against home-treated patients.

On July 9, the ministry announced that patients infected with the Delta variant were not allowed to be treated at home. They had to be stay in Covid-19 centers or hospitals.

Additional reporting by Teng Yalirozy

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