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‘Nov 28 incident’ not over; new cases found

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Interior ministry officials await Covid-19 retesting at the Ministry of Interior on December 12, 2020. Interior Ministry

‘Nov 28 incident’ not over; new cases found

The Ministry of Health said it was still too early for the government to declare an end to the outbreak of Covid-19 community transmissions, despite the relatively low number of cases since the first one was confirmed on November 28.

This came as the ministry and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN explained the necessity of revealing the identities of Covid-19 patients whose cases were linked to the so-called “November 28 community incident”.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on December 13 that contact tracing related to the incident was ongoing.

“We need to complete our work first and await a decision by Samdech Techo Prime Minister [Hun Sen],” she said.

As of December 12, a total of 8,814 people who were involved with the November 28 incident had been tested for a third time. Of the number, 40 people, 19 of them women, have tested positive.

Vandine said it was necessary to disclose the identities of people whose positive cases are linked to the incident, and that their cooperation, as well as the general public’s, has been instrumental in facilitating contact tracing and quickly stopping human-to-human transmission.

With the prime minister’s approval, the ministry has since December 4 published personal information of people confirmed to have contracted Covid-19.

UN human rights experts have expressed alarm at Cambodian authorities’ decision to allow such publication, calling it a deplorable breach of privacy unnecessary under any circumstances.

They welcomed a health ministry press statement on December 10 which affirmed the government’s commitment to respect individuals’ rights to privacy and dignity and which coincided with the ministry removing photographs of individuals diagnosed with Covid-19. Concerns remained, however, that press releases continue to include personal details.

In response, representatives of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN released a statement on December 11 asserting that the disclosure of the identities of affected individuals was of paramount importance and absolutely necessary under circumstances which warranted urgent measures and in the face of a dire need to curb spread of the virus in the community.

“The practice of withholding names will resume as soon as the community outbreak is fully contained. The Kingdom’s fight against Covid-19 integrates human rights values,” the press statement said.

Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a $9 billion vaccine initiative – the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) – in order to offer rapid and equitable support to developing member states as they seek to procure and distribute effective and safe coronavirus vaccines.

On December 13, the health ministry confirmed two new imported cases of Covid-19.

One of the two is a 47-year-old Jordanian man who arrived in Cambodia from Jordan via South Korea on December 10. He was travelling with 76 other passengers, all of whom tested negative and are being quarantined at two separate hotels in Phnom Penh.

The second case is a 32-year-old Cambodian man who arrived in Cambodia from Malaysia via South Korea on December 11. He was travelling with 62 other passengers, all of whom tested negative and are being quarantined at three separate hotels in the capital.

As of December 13, Cambodia had recorded a total of 359 Covid-19 cases, with 307 recoveries.

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