Cambodia has so far detected more than 200 cases of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant, with 109 found on July 31 and August 1. The Ministry of Health has expressed deep concerns that the variant may have already reached communities and be spreading as some of the cases detected have no clear source of origin.
The ministry said that of the latest 109 Delta cases, 66 were confirmed by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge on August 1 and 43 on July 31. Most of these cases were found in migrant workers returning from Thailand.
The 66 cases were detected in the capital and a number of provinces – four in Phnom Penh; 19 in Siem Reap; 21 in Oddar Meanchey; three in Banteay Meanchey; 15 in Pailin; and one each in Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kampong Thom and Battambang.
They included 51 migrant workers, nine health workers and one passenger travelling from Malaysia.
The 43 cases recorded on July 31 were all migrant workers – 13 in Oddar Meanchey; 14 in Pailin; three in Siem Reap; two in Prey Veng; and one each in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum.
Among the 109 cases, the ministry noted that some were found in the community without a clear source of origins. Three out of four cases in Phnom Penh involved an obstetric patient at Calmette Hospital, a cleaner and a patient who came for emergency services at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.
In Kampong Cham, a single Delta case was found in a Skun villager in Cheung Prey district’s Skun commune – also without any clear source.
In Oddar Meanchey, the 21 Delta cases pose a greater threat as the virus may have already reached large-scale community transmission there. According to the ministry’s press release, 12 out of the 21 cases were migrant workers while the other nine were medical workers who had contracted the disease.
“The 12 migrant workers may have been in contact with local merchants in the community,” it said.
Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine confirmed on August 2 that there have been a total of 223 confirmed Delta cases in Cambodia since March 31.
The ministry said: “The numbers we have indicate that the Delta variant has been spreading in our community already. The ministry insists that the public across the country remain vigilant in their protective measures.”
In Phnom Penh, the Delta variant has already spread in a part of Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Salang commune, prompting municipal governor Khuong Sreng to impose a lockdown there.
A lockdown was also imposed on some locations in Russey Keo district after some residents were suspected to have had contacts with infected patients. The lockdown will last for 14 days through August 16.
In Siem Reap, deputy provincial governor Ly Samrith told The Post on August 2 that a total of 20 Delta patients are under treatment at the provincial referral hospital, all of whom have been isolated from each other and from other Covid-19 patients.
“We isolate them from each other, but they all remain in the same Delta patient group. In doing so, it ensures that our medical personnel take greater precautions. They know how to deal with these cases, but if they are outside, that is a concern,” he said.
According to Samrith, although most of the cases were found in migrant workers and those who had contact with them, some cases have also been found in the community among people who had no contacts with the migrants.
World Health Organisation representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said on August 2 that both the Alpha and Delta variants have been detected in Cambodia.
“It is a new challenge. Be aware that combined public health and social measures, if well implemented and with good compliance, are effective in suppressing transmission,” she tweeted.
The health ministry’s Vandine also said on August 1 that Delta is already circulating in the country.
“We must act responsibly together now if we do not want to go through a public health disaster later on. Health education campaigns must start as soon as possible to engage the community and individuals to take part in Covid-19 prevention and response,” Vandine tweeted.
In a recent interview with the media, Vandine said the Alpha variant had already passed the red-line because it was found everywhere in the country. And the more deadly and contagious Delta variant is also now spreading in the community, prompting the government to impose restrictions including the lockdown of eight provinces and the nationwide 9pm-3am curfew.
“The [Covid-19] original strain might infect three people at once, while Alpha can be passed on to five or six people at one time . . . But Delta, the transmission is even faster; one person can infect from seven to 10 or even 15 people,” Vandine said.