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PM: Covid situation in Cambodia ‘alarming’

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Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto shook hands with Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at a ceremony presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen on November 23, 2020. SPM

PM: Covid situation in Cambodia ‘alarming’

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the Kingdom is at high risk of a Covid-19 outbreak and described the situation as alarming.

The prime minister said however that he would not declare a state of emergency, and called on the people to constantly adhere to health safety measures.

Hun Sen made the warning in a voice message sent out to the public on Saturday after a Cambodian bodyguard who safeguarded Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto tested positive for Covid-19 on November 7.

He said those who had direct contact with Szijjarto, especially through handshakes, have to quarantine.

“I won’t declare a state of emergency, either partly or for the whole country. And I won’t prevent travel by those who are not involved. But I request everyone take the utmost care in this uncertainty by wearing a mask and keeping social distance as instructed by the Ministry of Health.

“I regard this matter as a severe problem for Phnom Penh and I ask the Phnom Penh authority, the health sector, ministries, institutions and media covering Szijjarto to quarantine their staff. If not, the risk is very high for our country,” Hun Sen said.

He called on them protect themselves and others while waiting on the result of their Covid-19 tests for two weeks.

“I hope we will win in this difficult situation which requires us to take necessary action without fail. Although I am in quarantine, I still follow the situation and lead the command on the matter. But I need cooperation from those who are directly involved,” he said.

Following the prime minister’s call, the health ministry and the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall decided to rent Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence in the capital’s Chroy Changvar district as a quarantine shelter for those who are unable to fulfil quarantine by themselves at home or their workplace.

In a joint press release on Saturday, the ministry and municipal hall said those who had direct and indirect contact with Szijjarto must enforce quarantine for 14 days at the hotel.

In another press release on Sunday, the ministry ordered temporary closures of KTV, nightclubs, cinemas, and museums across the country.

Late on Sunday, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hang Chuon Naron announced that both state and private schools in Phnom Penh and Kandal province will be closed for two weeks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Naron said the closures are due to a lack of information and cooperation from parents and guardians who were in direct and indirect contact with the Hungarian delegation.

Naron said there were 900 parents and caretakers of students who had direct and indirect contact with the Hungarian delegation.

He also ordered a temporary halt to all sport activities at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh until further notice.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also shared his personal quarantine experience, including reducing time in the workplace and using just his bedroom and dining room. He said he did not sit on couch and used cloth to cover his hands when opening a door. He only uses two pens. He said all documents brought to him and sent back from him must be sprayed with antiseptic. All workers at his house must wear gloves.

“I would like to call for quarantine. Ministers whose staff must undergo quarantine have to instruct them to correctly apply quarantine measure like what I am doing now. If we fail, it will break out into an uncertain situation. We must be cautious,” he said.

As of November 8, Cambodia had reported 295 cases with 288 (97.6 per cent) treated and discharged from hospitals. Seven people are currently being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital, including four Cambodians, a French woman, one Pakistani and one Indian.

The health ministry said 892 people were found to have come in contact with the Hungarian delegation. They will be tested three more times.

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