Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday announced the postponement of the Khmer New Year holidays as the Kingdom seeks to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Hun Sen said the government will instead make up for it with a five-day holiday at an appropriate time.
“I’ve chosen to suspend the Khmer New Year holidays. Those in the public and private sectors are required to work as usual. Workplaces are the safest places now,” he said during a press conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.
“If people are allowed to travel around, the country could be at its greatest risk after the Khmer New Year.
“So please understand the difficulties the country is facing now. It’s not just the government that is facing hardship. It’s the people who will suffer the most.
“So far, only one head of state has been in the intensive care unit [for Covid-19] – it’s British Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” he said.
Elaborating on his decision, Hun Sen said staying put is the best option in preventing the virus’ spread.
“What’s the point of spending the three-day holiday in your hometown when people suspect each other of carrying Covid-19?
“Those in the countryside are afraid of contracting the virus from city dwellers, and you are scared of getting infected while visiting the countryside too. So it’s best to stay in one place,” he said.
Hun Sen urged people to cut down travel to their hometowns and other recreational areas to avoid transmitting the virus from one place to another.
The prime minister said another reason to suspend the holidays, which were scheduled from April 14-16, was the apparent apathy among the public.
He said the people have noticeably become less afraid of the virus and began to travel more on the road, causing traffic congestion.
“I think they are less worried because first, the number of infections is low. Second, they think they will recover after an infection anyway.
“It’s different from being hit by a bullet or being in a [fatal] traffic accident when you instantly drop [dead].
“Or maybe because I previously told them not to worry too much about Covid-19. If this is the case, now I tell you to take it seriously. So please be scared and turn your fear into self-protection,” he said.
Hun Sen said the government is taking three important measures to contain the pandemic, one of which is to prevent the virus from being imported into the Kingdom.
To this end, he said the authorities are tracking the influx of Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand. So far more than 60,000 migrants have returned to the country, though he said none of them have endangered public health in their communities.
Hun Sen called on Cambodians working legally in Thailand to remain there and the authorities to facilitate the return of undocumented workers. He instructed them to conduct medical checks and transport them home.
To prevent imported cases of infection, the prime minister also postponed the return of 150 Cambodians from Malaysia on Tuesday.
The second measure, he said, is to prevent the virus’ spread at home. To tackle this, the government has ordered the closure of schools and other public venues, and the cessation of mass gatherings, be they for entertainment or religious purposes.
Hun Sen noted that while pagodas, churches and mosques remain open, worship should be conducted at home or the monks’ living quarters.
The third measure, he said, is to cure Covid-19 patients to prevent transmission of the disease to others. He said the Kingdom’s virus tally remains relatively low because the government has accurately analysed the situation with quick response mechanisms in place.