The Ministry of Health on Thursday confirmed 10 more cases of coronavirus infections bringing the latest tally to 47. Almost all are confirmed to be connected to a Muslim religious gathering in Malaysia which has become the epicentre for infections in that country.
Two of the 10 are women aged 35 and 45 from Ratanak commune in Battambang provincial town. The ministry said both victims contracted the virus from their husbands who attended the gathering. They are being treated at the provincial hospital.
The 35-year-old has four daughters while the other woman has two daughters and a son. The ministry has sent the children’s samples, and that of the 45-year-old woman’s mother-in-law with whom she lives, for testing.
In Kandal province, a 60-year-old man tested positive and is being treated at the provincial hospital. He was among the 79 people previously reported to have returned from the same gathering in Malaysia.
In Phnom Penh, a 34-year-old man from Kampot province who volunteered to do religious work at a mosque in the capital’s Chhbar Ampov I commune tested positive. He too had recently returned from the gathering and is being treated at the Chak Angre Krom hospital in Phnom Penh.
In Kampong Cham province, six Malaysians aged 26 to 62 also contracted the virus. All of them are preaching Islam in the province’s Kangmeas district. However, the ministry did not say if they too had attended the Muslim gathering in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, effective from 12am on Friday, Cambodia will temporally close the border with Vietnam to stop the movement of people in light of the rapid growth of Covid-19 infections in Cambodia and the region.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that the travel ban also followed a recent decision by Vietnam to ban the movement of people across its shared border with Cambodia for the same reasons.
The Cambodian decision was announced by Hun Sen in a Facebook post on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation sent a letter to the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh to inform it of the decision.
On Wednesday, Vietnam suspended the issuance of visas to all foreigners for the next 30 days. Those who enter the country must now be put in quarantine. It said those from the US, EU and Asean countries will be quarantined in places reserved specifically for this purpose.
The same day, Hun Sen said the day Vietnam closed its border, 300 Vietnamese entered the Kingdom. Cambodia is giving these Vietnamese citizens 48 hours to leave the country before they become illegal immigrants.
“This is the problem. This is not revenge or rude behaviour on our part,” Hun Sen said in an audio message to his ministers.
He told Cambodian border officials to cooperate with Vietnamese authorities to ensure the safe return of Cambodian nationals.
The ban, he said, applies only to the movement of people. The exchange of goods across the border is unaffected, Hun Sen stressed.
In its letter to the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, the ministry said: “Entry by Vietnamese nationals into Cambodia and Cambodian nationals into Vietnam by land or waterway is temporarily suspended effective March 20, at 11:59pm.
“The goal of this measure is to avoid quarantines for both Vietnamese and Cambodian nationals who travel between the countries,” it said. The letter said the measure does not apply to diplomatic passport holders.
On Thursday, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng instructed all provincial governors, the National Police chief, and the director-general of immigration to ban the movement of people across the border following Vietnam’s ban.
“The authorities along the borders must inform Vietnam of the measure and ensure it understands why it is being enforced. Now is the time to strengthen cooperation to stop the spread of Covid-19,” Sar Kheng said.