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Decrying the reports as “fake news” the Cambodian government lashed out at Vietnamese media who reported a man testing positive for COVID-19 upon returning from Siem Reap.
PHNOM PENH--Cambodia’s Ministry of Health on Monday (May 18) rejected reports circulating in Vietnamese media that a Vietnamese man illegally crossed the Cambodian border to return to Tay Ninh province and has now tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Vietnamese media reports that the man had been staying in Siem Reap since Jan. 10, but returned to Vietnam on May 2 via coach, despite the border being closed since April 2020. Upon presenting himself to local authorities, the man was quarantined. Initial tests for COVID-19 came back negative on May 5, but a second test on May 15 showed the man had contracted the virus, prompting speculation that he may have become infected in Cambodia.
Cambodia’s Health Minister Mam Bun Heng claimed that no that there was no such Vietnamese man recorded as having visited Cambodia, although speculation is rising about the man’s use of informal border crossing channels and whether such a visit would have been recorded by authorities.
“The Health Ministry, Cambodia’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention and relevant authorities in Siem Reap province have searched, but have not found the name of Vietnamese man as the published in Vietnamese media, the idea that he was infected with COVID-19 in Siem Reap is fake news,” the minister said.
According to the new Infectious Diseases Reporting System (EOC) in ASEAN, the Ministry of Health's team did not receive any official information as of the reports published by Vietnamese media outlets.
As such, the Health Ministry has assumed that this particular case of COVID-19 is one that developed within Vietnam’s borders.
The Ministry of Health has requested that the Vietnamese authorities adhere to the international technical and regulatory standards for sharing information on infected cases before such information is published by the media.
“The Ministry of Health considers the fact that this case has serious implications for Cambodia, which is trying to prevent the spreading of COVID-19,” Bun Heng said.
In March 2020, two Vietnamese nationals returning to Tay Ninh province, Vietnam following a tour of Phnom Penh both tested positive for COVID-19, but at the time the Cambodian Ministry of Health maintained that no evidence had been found to suggest local transmission was happening in the country.
Similarly, a diplomatic spat broke out between Cambodian and Malaysia in February 2020 following a passenger who was aboard the HS Westerdam cruise ship that docked in Sihanoukville was cleared for travel only to test positive upon her arrival in Malaysia. Prime Minister Hun Sen weighed in and decried the tests conducted by Malaysian authorities as fake. Later tests came back negative, but Cambodia apparently remains skeptical of testing conducted by foreign governments on people returning from Cambodia.