The national Covid-19 sub-commission for exit-entrance control and quarantine has instructed provincial authorities to expand their quarantine centres in anticipation of receiving more migrant workers.
Hun Manith, head of the sub-commission, also ordered an extension of the quarantine period for returning migrant workers from 14 to 21 days.
The move came after some Covid-19 cases, particularly the coronavirus Delta variant, were detected in migrant workers who had completed their 14-day quarantines at the border and had left for their individual provinces.
In an audio message on July 20, Manith said the moves were made in consultation with all of the relevant sub-commissions and inter-ministerial bodies.
“This directive applies to all of the provinces in Cambodia. All provinces have to prepare their quarantine centres to receive people who will be transferred to them from the border areas.
“In our previous instructions, the quarantine period was set at 14 days at the borders. They [migrant workers] will now undergo an additional seven day at their home provinces.
“The new Covid-19 Delta variant can sometimes evade detection even after 14 days. That is why we have to set up quarantine centres in the home districts of migrant workers,” he said, adding that quarantining at private homes was no longer permitted.
Manith said preparing these centres would not be a difficult task because each province had already done so previously when migrant of workers had returned en masse in 2020.
He also said he would discuss the 21-day quarantine requirement with Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng.
According to Manith, the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Administration recently called on authorities in other provinces to collect their residents who completed quarantine at the border and take them to their hometowns for continued isolation.
He said some migrant workers had previously completed quarantine and left for their home provinces of Siem Reap, Kandal, Battambang, Pursat and Phnom Penh.
“They all tested negative and were let go. But now we’ve found that six of them tested positive when they reached home. Prey Veng found four positive cases. In Phnom Penh, they went to deliver a baby at a hospital and then two people tested positive.
“This is high risk because all of these cases are Delta variant that we need to take extreme precautions with,” he explained.
Siem Reap Provincial Administration spokesman Liv Sokhon told The Post on July 20 that his province had already received the new instructions to conduct additional seven-day quarantine at centres set up in each district for the migrant workers who had already completed their 14-day quarantine at the border.
He said the authorities had put this new directive into practice in the last three days. Siem Reap is also the reserve province to take migrant workers for quarantine from Banteay Meanchey, where the quarantine centres are now almost full.
The health ministry said on July 16 that Cambodia had recorded a total of 75 cases of the new Delta variant, also known as B.1.617-2, since March 31.
Liv Sokhon said Siem Reap had registered a total of eight Delta cases, with five of them having recovered.
Oddar Meanchey deputy provincial governor Dy Rado said that as of July 20, his province had registered 17 Delta cases in migrant workers. Seven of them have now recovered, while the other 10 will still be quarantining for another 21 days.
“We place migrant workers in quarantine as set by the health ministry. We will let them go home after they complete the quarantine. But for those who tested positive for the new variant, they have to stay in quarantine for 21 more days,” he said.
Battambang deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith said on July 20 that his province had detected four Delta cases in migrant workers, all of whom had recovered.
He said all returning migrant workers have to have their samples tested at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge in Phnom Penh because the rapid tests cannot specify whether a positive case is Delta strain or not.
“Lately, there are not many migrant workers who have returned from Thailand through Battambang. It’s between just 10 and 20 per day now,” he said.
In the meantime, the health ministry said they are studying all instances of death among the elderly living in rural areas to determine if their cause of death was Covid-19.
“As we have heard, some old people who live in rural areas have died after they fell sick and some might have had Covid-19 without their knowledge. They had symptoms like the flu with running noses and coughing and they thought it was just a normal cold, because they thought they did not go far from home and could not have contracted the virus,” she said.
According to Vandine, elderly people are the age group with the highest risk of severe illness or death from Covid-10 because their immune systems are no longer as strong as when they were young and most of them have other underlying health conditions that can complicate their recovery from the disease.