Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng raised fresh concerns about the community outbreak of Covid-19 in Cambodia, especially the new Delta variant also known as B.1.617.2, warning that the situation has now reached a red line.

The warning comes as the government tightens control of border crossings, especially with Thailand.

“To prevent further spread, the health ministry is increasing Covid-19 testing and enforcing quarantine measures, particularly for people returning from Thailand and Vietnam.

“Those infected with the Delta variant have to stay away from other patients whose cases are linked to the February 20 outbreak,” Bun Heng said during a visit to the construction site of the Cambodia-China Preah Kosamak Friendship Hospital on June 29.

As of June 29, Cambodia has recorded 22 Delta variant cases, all of them imported via Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand through border checkpoints.

The Kingdom reached a record for daily transmissions on June 29, with the health ministry announcing on June 30 that another 1,130 Covid-19 cases had been recorded, with 139 of them imported. The ministry also reported 27 more deaths.

The new cases brought the total cases in Cambodia to 50,385 – with 44,143 recoveries and 602 fatalities to date.

“We are enlarging our hospitals in all places, especially those in the provinces along the borders in order to be able to protect the health of our people and to increase vaccinations. Vaccination is important to reduce the spread and severity of the disease,” Bun Heng said.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said the Covid-19 situation in Cambodia has now reached a red line for community transmission, which was a great concern that needed to be addressed.

“We don’t want the spread of Covid-19 to go beyond the red line because when it crosses the red line, the situation becomes miserable. It will lead to large-scale transmission throughout our community,” she said.

When the transmission reaches a large enough scale within the community, public health facilities and hospitals will not have the capacity to accommodate all of the patients in need of treatment as there is not enough space for them in such a scenario, she added.

Thus, Vandine explained, large-scale community transmission will cause many deaths and interrupt the daily lives and businesses of the people.

“When the disease reaches too large a scale, it will be necessary to go into lockdown again in order to prevent the disease from spreading out of control.

“We are now at a red line for Covid-19 virus transmission in our country. Everyone must act responsibly together in order to suppress virus transmission, please, if we do not want to pass this red line which will require lockdowns again,” Vandine tweeted on June 29.

To attempt to guard against the importation of the Delta variant from abroad, Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth – who is also acting head of the National Commission for Combating Covid-19 – wrote a three-page letter providing updated instructions to all relevant authorities.

In the letter dated June 29, Pornmoniroth instructed the sub-commission for border crossing control and quarantines to expand or construct more quarantine centres along the Cambodian-Thai border, especially in the provinces whose facilities were currently deficient.

He said returning migrant workers must not be placed in the same quarantine centres along with other people in order to prevent the new variant from spreading there.

He told relevant sub-commissions to work together in providing more financial and material support, medicine and other necessities to the provinces along the borders according to their needs.

“The provincial commission combating Covid-19 in the provinces bordering Thailand have to cooperate with Thai authorities to increase control over the flow of people and migrant workers and to prevent all illegal border crossings.

“The Cambodian embassy in Thailand has to raise awareness with all Cambodians there about Thailand’s measures so that the migrant workers do not panic and rush home, which will result in them losing their jobs when the situation improves,” Pornmoniroth said.

He told the provincial level Covid-19 commissions to take more serious administrative and health measures and legal actions, in addition to the increased education and outreach that they had been implementing.

The sub-commission for supply and finance can provide funding to the Covid-19 combating commission to procure the materials necessary for the region without having to transport them from the capital. Those materials include the testing kits for people in the quarantine centres.

The sub-commission for supply and finance can take the lead in planning the budget for the next six months by working closely with relevant sub-commissions like those for technical and treatment matters and border control and quarantine.

Pornmoniroth said rapid tests should be taken every month by the frontline workers who are stationed at the borders, but those who transport cargo across the border have to take rapid tests every day.