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Migrants abroad asked not to return for Khmer New Year

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Health minister Mam Bun Heng visits migrants at Kamrieng quarantine center. Battambang Administration

Migrants abroad asked not to return for Khmer New Year

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has called on Cambodian migrant workers who are living and working in Thailand to refrain from returning to their homeland during the Khmer New Year holiday in April in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He made the remarks while visiting Cambodian migrant workers who are in quarantine in Battambang province on February 16.

“Please cooperate with the government in this matter to stop the spread of Covid-19. I understand that you wish to reunite with your families during the holiday, but please do not come to visit at this time in order to help us prevent the spread of Covid-19,” he said.

Bun Heng added that amid the pandemic, people should seek domestic work before migrating abroad to avoid contracting the virus. He said the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training had also prepared some work and taught some skills to migrant workers who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.

“Those who have land to cultivate rice or farm should grow crops to whatever extent they can instead. Don’t enter and exit Thailand to find work because Covid-19 could spread from Thailand and you put Cambodian communities at risk that way,” he said.

Bun Heng also asked all provincial authorities on the Cambodia-Thailand border to continue taking tough measures against middlemen or brokers who illegally bring migrant workers clandestinely to skip quarantine.

He also reminded those at the borders to continue to carry out hygiene measures regularly according to the health ministry’s guidelines.

Bun Heng also warned that the new Covid-19 variants spreading across the globe presented an increased risk of transmission and that Cambodia had detected three cases of those variants already among the people who had tested positive while entering the country.

On February 16, the health ministry organised a course training medical professionals for the Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Phnom Penh and the provinces bordering Thailand and Vietnam in order to strengthen their capacity.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said: “This training ... is to comprehensively prepare medical professionals to vaccinate groups of people against Covid-19,” she said.

Vandine called on all people to protect themselves by continuing to carry out the recommended health measures regardless of vaccination because it was not certain that the current vaccines would offer full protection against the new variants.

“We have found three cases of people with the new variants. That number seems small but the risk of infection in our communities would have been huge if these three patients had not been found in time. Some of the new variants are more infectious and spread faster,” she said.

Vandine underscored that a widespread outbreak of these new variants in Cambodia is possible though it is not a certainty. She said it depends on whether preventive measures are carried out by everyone consistently in addition to ensuring that all inbound passengers to Cambodia are tested and placed in quarantine.

The health ministry said on February 17 that from February 10-16, a total of 2,611 out of 3,219 volunteers have been vaccinated, with 608 having been denied vaccination because of their pre-existing health conditions.

During the same period, a total of 8,894 officials from the Ministry of National Defence have been vaccinated.

As of February 17, Cambodia had recorded a total of 479 Covid-19 cases, with nine remaining hospitalised.

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