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Border provinces mull delay in classes

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A school building in Banteay Meanchey province. Photo supplied

Border provinces mull delay in classes

Provincial administrations along the Thai border are planning to seek intervention from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to postpone the re-opening of schools scheduled for January 11 as some have been converted to quarantine sites for migrant workers returning from Thailand.

Battambang deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith said that from December 28 to January 4, some 1,815 people returned from Thailand through the province’s international border checkpoints. They are currently in quarantine with some sites located at schools.

“Any schools that are not being used as quarantine centres can re-open for the academic year normally, but for schools used for quarantine, we must request the education ministry to postpone its resumption,” he said.

Bunrith noted that the provincial administration has no choice but to use schools as quarantine sites because hotels and guesthouses along the border were not available or sufficient for the purpose.

The provincial administration is currently using eight schools and one health centre near the frontier for quarantining those who return to the country. On January 3 alone, 67 people entered from Thailand.

Banteay Meanchey deputy governor Ly Sary said on January 4 that people were arriving to the province every day, and over 1,000 migrants had been quarantined so far.

“We are using 12 schools and health centres as quarantine facilities. We are concerned about the re-opening of the academic year on January 11 because some of our schools are still in use,” he said.

According to Sary, if the circumstances of Covid-19 community transmission in Thailand cannot be brought under control, provinces bordering the neighbouring country must implement safety policies such as preventing large gatherings, while school re-openings could be postponed.

Koh Kong provincial deputy governor Sok Sothy said 55 people have been quarantined after recently returning from Thailand.

“The provincial administration will wait for a few days to make a determination with regard to delaying the new academic year,” he said.

Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said plans to re-open schools and resume the 2020-2021 academic year on January 11 would proceed in accordance with safety measures.

“If anything changes, the ministry will make a public announcement at an appropriate time,” he said.

On December 29, the ministry declared that private schools were permitted to reopen while state schools would resume nearly two weeks later. The announcement came after the conclusion of the “November 28 community incident” – a reference to the first confirmed case of Covid-19 local transmission.

Authorities along the border with Thailand have tightened management of quarantine sites and checkpoints to prevent people infected by the coronavirus from crossing into the country without completing compulsory health checks and quarantine.

As of January 4, a total of 17 returning Cambodians had tested positive for Covid-19 since the recent outbreak in Thailand.

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