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Call for public cooperation in Covid-19 fight

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Police blocked National Road 6 to prevent the spread of coronavirus at the border of Kandal and Phnom Penh on Friday. Hong Menea

Call for public cooperation in Covid-19 fight

There were no new Covid-19 infections reported in Cambodia on Monday, which kept the national tally at 122. Analysts say the measures taken by the government to limit infections have been sufficient, but more public cooperation is needed.

Since a Chinese national became the first reported Covid-19 patient in Cambodia in January, the government has taken various actions to curb the disease.

The latest measure was a province-to-province travel ban effective from last Friday to Thursday, which was implemented after the government postponed the four-day Khmer New Year holidays.

More recent government measures included prioritising agricultural crop-growing, acquiring face masks and medical equipment for doctors and directing officials and citizens to avoid travelling to countries in Europe, the US, and Iran.

Many of the measures took effect in March, with different ministries issuing directives for their respective spheres.

On March 13, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport temporarily banned the entry of passenger ships into the Kingdom. This measure was in response to a British passenger who had travelled on the Viking Cruise Journey and made a stop in Kampong Cham, testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health issued a directive to suspend all KTV venues, entertainment clubs, cinemas and museums from March 17.

It also banned the selling of fake medicines claimed to be effective in treating Covid-19. All Covid-19 rapid-test kits were banned and private hospitals were prohibited from providing Covid-19 treatment.

Bus and minibus operators were given instructions by the ministry on how they should accommodate passengers, while barbershops and beauty parlours were given directions on how to prevent possible Covid-19 transmissions.

Also on March 17, the Ministry of Tourism, which oversees KTV venues, entertainment clubs and bars, concurred with the Ministry of Health and closed them, while adding beer gardens and drinking parlours to the list.

The ministry has also banned the entry of foreigners from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the US, and Iran.

Schools were first closed in Siem Reap in mid-March, and later throughout the nation, by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

It banned all teachers from providing extra classes, postponed training and delayed examinations for secondary and high school students.

Recently, the ministry closed all gyms and sports clubs in the country.

All missions abroad for ministry officials were cancelled.

Further impacting the youth, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation suspended the gathering of children, child care in community centres and visits by donors and foreign volunteers.

On March 18, tours to the Royal Palace were postponed indefinitely by the Ministry of Royal Palace.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation restricted travel from March 30 and suspended visa-free measures, e-visas and visas on arrival.

All foreigners attempting to enter Cambodia now must have health certificates and health insurance covering no less than $50,000.

Similar measures were taken by the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), which informed all airline operators that they were responsible for returning passengers who tested positive for the virus back to their original destinations.

Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recommendation, the Ministry of Economy and Finance closed all casinos in the Kingdom effective April 1.

It also set up several groups to deal with the impacts of the virus on the poor and private sectors.

The Ministry of Information informed and warned the public about fake news. On April 7, the director-general of news station TVFB, Sovann Rithy, was arrested in connection with the dissemination of critical information.

The Ministry of Interior focused primarily on the approximately 70,000 Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand. With sub-national level authorities, they identified the migrant workers and worked with health staff to quarantine them.

The ministry’s General Department of Prison postponed prison visitations from relatives.

Workers were told to continue as usual by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training after the Khmer New Year holidays were postponed. Those absent from work are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. The ministry also updated the phone numbers of workers.

The Ministry of Commerce urged private sectors not to increase the prices of goods, face masks and protective materials while suspending the export of fish and rice.

Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia said the actions taken by the government were sufficient to halt the spread of the virus.

But he said the compliance by the general public was still lacking.

“All state institutions have consistently taken action. But some people have not cooperated well enough. They seem to be careless and don’t pay enough attention to the measures.

For example, the provincial travel ban has been respected by many, but there are still people who don’t see the good points of this executive order and the government-imposed measures,” Phea said.

He said possible reasons for people not following the orders include lack of discipline and lack of respect for the government. But there’s also the belief that the virus doesn’t pose much of a threat to Cambodia, and people have personal needs that, in their mind, override government directives.

Ou Chanrath, a former lawmaker from Takeo province, said the government measures were reasonable, including the provincial travel ban.

However, he questioned whether all the measures were taken with a clear principle.

“Is the government itself facing a problem? If we implement many measures, we should be able to support the people.

“In Thailand, they declared a state of emergency, and they released a lot of money for the people.

“I see that the Cambodian government has limited capacity to help the people. But I don’t know the extent of this crisis as I am not an evaluator,” Chanrath said.

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