More than 15,000 workers in Phnom Penh who took time off during the Khmer New Year holidays will be quarantined for 14 days before being allowed back at work.
In his letter to Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng on Wednesday, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said workers at various factories and enterprises in the capital returned to their hometowns despite postponement of the holidays and an inter-provincial travel ban to prevent Covid-19 spreading in the communities.
He requested the labour ministry to impose a 14-day quarantine on the workers.
Bun Heng said despite the relatively low number of infections throughout the Kingdom, most of which were imported, drastic measures are needed to prevent the coronavirus spreading in communities.
“To prevent Covid-19 transmissions among workers who return to their factories and enterprises, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training must quarantine them for 14 days,” he said.
He said the quarantine must be administered by medical staff from the labour ministry.
Labour ministry spokesperson Heng Sour could not be reached for comment on how the quarantine would be implemented.
But health ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said any quarantine would be carried out under existing guidelines.
Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an executive order banning people moving from one province to another from midnight on April 9 to Thursday.
Deputy Phnom Penh municipal governor Mean Chanyada said 15,726 workers from 672 factories in Phnom Penh had left for their hometowns during Khmer New Year.
Among the workers, he said 7,258 are in Por Sen Chey district, 2,341 in Dangkor, 1,251 in Kambol, 2,116 in Meanchey, and 1,068 in Sen Sok, while the rest work in the nine remaining districts.
The municipal hall had prepared 37 schools with 699 rooms to be used for the quarantine.
Municipal hall spokesperson Met Meas Pheakdey did not immediately respond to request for comment.
But Pa Socheatvong, chairman of the Phnom Penh Municipal Council, confirmed to The Post on Thursday that there had been discussions on how to quarantine the more than 15,000 workers.
He said relevant authorities had considered two options, whether to quarantine them at schools or where they lived.
It would be difficult, he said, to quarantine them at schools as that would require a lot of preparation including toilets, electricity, food and sleeping materials. He said the quarantine is meant to prevent a corononavirus spread in communities and not a punishment for beating the government travel ban.
“Finally, we decided to let workers stay at their locations, but we will make sure they understand the 14-day quarantine procedures. This serves to ensure everyone is safe,” he said.
Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central) executive director Moeun Tola said the quarantine would put even more pressure on the workers who have been suspended amid the pandemic.
He said some of the suspended workers had received only $30 of the promised $70 in social support from the government and factories.
“I think it would be better if we check their health when they return to work, like measuring their temperature and monitoring their health condition. Only those suspected of having contracted the virus should be quarantined for 14 days and hospitalised,” he claimed.