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Health ministry urges precautions as Pchum Ben festival approaches

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People celebrate Pchum Ben festival at a pagoda in September of last year. Heng Chivoan

Health ministry urges precautions as Pchum Ben festival approaches

With the Pchum Ben festival fast approaching, the Ministry of Health has advised people to take extra precautions to prevent Covid-19 and also to protect themselves from food poisoning by complying with food safety measures during the holiday season.

The ministry’s guidelines issued on September 8 urged renewed vigilance in the face of the Delta variant threat despite the public’s weariness with the restrictions required to fight the pandemic.

“In order to ensure the prevention of the spread of Covid-19 and move towards the new normal, we must not be complacent with what we have achieved. All individuals, families and communities have to continue working together to stem the virus,” said health minister Mam Bun Heng in the guidelines.

The ministry reminded all people to continue implementing preventive health measures during the festivals which take place from September 22 through October 7.

Bun Heng said local authorities and pagoda committees have to instruct people to comply with health measures and that they must increase their monitoring of the activities of Buddhists visiting the pagodas to ensure compliance.

“Authorities, monks and caretakers have to set up hand-washing facilities at the entrances and exits, spray sanitiser and take temperatures.

“They have to keep a distance of at least 1.5m when offering food and other donations to the monks or when sitting or standing in line to give food and alms or when listening to sermons,” Bun Heng said.

Local authorities must assign adequate forces to monitor and remind people to comply with the measures to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 and these measures must also be observed at private gatherings of family members at home.

Residents must not invite friends or relatives from other houses over to gamble, sing or dance. They must not gather to eat or drink beer either as these are all factors that were deemed high risk scenarios for transmission.

“Avoid non-essential travel to hometown because it leads to the transmission of Covid-19 to your family members and loved ones. You can chat online instead of having face-to-face meetings and this will contribute greatly to the mitigation of transmission,” he continued.

He urged the elderly, the sick and pregnant women to avoid attendance at all gatherings when unnecessary.

Bun Heng also called on all people to maintain good standards of hygiene such as washing hands with soap and clean water or alcohol and when preparing meals to store raw and cooked foods separately. He also reminded people to thoroughly cook meat and seafood, wash all vegetables and refrigerate any leftovers.

“When you buy ready-made food at markets or on roadsides, make sure the food is safe and kept at a safe temperature – not “room temperature” – meaning the foods are either refrigerated or kept heated if they aren’t served immediately after preparation.

“Authorities have to assign people to monitor and advise them to comply with food safety measures and prepare foods correctly so that we can avoid preventable instances of food poisoning or food-borne diseases,” he said.

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