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Health ministry sets guidelines for New Year celebrations

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A vendor sells food at O’russey Market in Phnom Penh in November of last year. Heng Chivoan

Health ministry sets guidelines for New Year celebrations

The Ministry of Health has issued guidelines to help people prevent the spread of Covid-19 and bird flu as well as food and alcohol poisoning during Khmer New Year celebrations in mid-April.

“The ministry encourages all people to follow this simple advice to protect themselves and their families . . . from Covid-19 and other diseases,” it said in a statement.

The guidelines, issued on January 24, said many people celebrate the ancestral festival by purchasing poultry, some of which may be trafficked. This could pose a risk of bird flu transmission if correct preventative measures are not taken.

The guidelines also mentioned the Covid-19 situation, especially the Omicron variant which is actively circulating in many countries around the world.

The ministry said that despite the successful way the Kingdom has weathered the pandemic, the highly transmissible Omicron strain still requires all people to keep guard.

Health minister Mam Bun Heng reiterated his call for people to maintain vigilance against Omicron, bird flu and other diseases.

“On the occasion of the upcoming Khmer New Year, everyone should work together to prevent health problems that can be caused by food or alcohol poisoning,” he said.

Bun Heng said health measures including mask wearing, frequent hand washing and maintaining social distance must be practiced. He recommended that the public continue to avoid crowded places, especially those without good air flow.

He also urged the public to wash their hands with soap and water after contact with rodents, poultry or other objects that may be a source of contamination, and to adhere to best food safety practice by cooking food well before consumption.

“Avoid contact with livestock or direct contact with animals at livestock farms and poultry markets, entry into slaughterhouses or contact with surfaces contaminated with manure, poultry or other animals,” he said.

“Avoid congestion or crowds in markets or shops or on the day of celebrations,” he added.

The minister recommended that local authorities assign management forces to monitor and guide the implementation of protective measures, especially in farms and markets with live poultry, in order to avoid an outbreak of bird flu in the community.

“Common symptoms include a fever over 38.5C, coughing and shortness of breath, and a history of contact with sick or dead poultry 14 days before the onset of the fever and respiratory indicators. Please call the emergency number 115 and hurry to the nearest hospital if a case of bird flu is suspected,” he said.

There must also be inspections on whether people follow protective measures including the three dos and three don’ts, and whether food safety standards are met. Inspections of wine or wine production sites must also be carried out to ensure organisers or producers follow the correct procedures by not adding methanol to their products.

As of January 24, Cambodia had recorded more than 120,000 Covid-19 cases, including a total of 214 Omicron community cases.

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