Khmer New Year Goes Ahead Despite Continued Spread of COVID-19

A general view inside a market in Phnom Penh on March 17, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
  • Phoung Vantha
  • March 22, 2021 4:27 AM

Authorities announced 73 new cases on March 20, two of which were imported, as the outbreak rages on, but the government have said Khmer New Year will go ahead “with preventative measures.”

PHNOM PENH--More than a month after the community outbreak took hold in Cambodia authorities have found 1,233 COVID-19 cases in connection to the Feb. 20 outbreak as the Ministry of Health on March 22 reported 71 new locally transmitted cases and two imported cases.

Despite the rising number of cases, the government announced on March 21 that the Khmer New Year public holiday would go ahead, but warned people against holding ceremonies of any kind, adding that people should avoid crowded areas, resorts, pagodas and other places which may become high-risk settings.

However, the government has not announced any travel ban as they did last year. Instead, as of March 22, the government has only requested that transport companies do not increase their fees over Khmer New Year and follow health guidance for passengers.

Not included in the Ministry of Health’s March 22 statement was the death of a 75-year-old Cambodian man that has instead been reported by government-mouthpiece Fresh News on March 22. Health authorities have not yet confirmed the death, but according to Fresh News the man tested positive for COVID-19 on March 21 and died on March 22 after 10 hours in a Phnom Penh hospital.

According to health authorities, of the 71 locally transmitted cases 32 were found in Sihanoukville, 28 in Phnom Penh, along with five in Kampong Thom Province, three in Kandal Province, one in Prey Veng Province, one in Siem Reap Province and one in Kep Province—this is the first COVID-19 case found in Kep since the latest outbreak began.

The Ministry of Health has insisted on hospitalizing all cases, rather than simply quarantining those who have no symptoms—as such there has been a shortage of hospital beds, notably in Phnom Penh where today authorities said they had not yet found suitable facilities for 21 of the new COVID-19 patients.

Likewise, the two imported cases include to Indonesian women who tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived in Cambodia on March 20, but authorities are yet to find a hospital bed for either of them.

That being said, the Health Ministry announced that a further 17 people—three Cambodians and 14 Chinese nationals—who contracted the virus in relation to the Feb. 20 outbreak have been released from care after testing negative for COVID-19 twice.

As of March 22, Cambodia has recorded a total of 1,753 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in the country in early 2020. Among them, 967 patients have made a full recovery and three patients have succumbed to the disease. Three patients had death to the coronavirus.

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