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PM urges calm in wake of ‘November 3 event’

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Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a press conference at the Peace Palace in April, 2020. Hong Menea

PM urges calm in wake of ‘November 3 event’

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on citizens to remain calm and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after four people tested positive for Covid-19 following a visit by Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto on November 3.

Szijjarto was confirmed Covid-19 positive in the Thai capital Bangkok after the visit, where he met Hun Sen and senior officials, among others.

The prime minister, who tested negative and has since been in quarantine, urged those who were in contact with Szijjarto to isolate themselves as he weighed the possibility of locking down Phnom Penh and other areas. Hun Sen has termed Szijjarto’s visit the “November 3 event”.

He said while he acknowledged the seriousness of the current situation, it was not deemed dire yet.

“I would like to take this opportunity to call on our people not to get nervous about this situation. It is really serious, but it has yet to reach a level that causes panic and subsequent increase in the price of goods,” he said in a voice message recorded on Monday night.

“I would like to thank my countrymen at markets for continuing activities as usual. They don’t get jittery, especially regarding the price of goods both in Phnom Penh and the provinces. Our situation is still well-managed. Our people continue to make a living as usual.”

Hun Sen acknowledged the situation had caused some jitters in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal, Pursat, Preah Sihanouk, Takeo, Kampot and Kep because several senior officials who had been in contact with Szijjarto had travelled to those areas.

“I ask the people to be careful and hopefully my calls will be heeded before I consider locking down Phnom Penh or any part of the country under the Law on the State of Emergency.

“I might request King [Norodom Sihamoni] to sign a lockdown [order] for any part of Phnom Penh or the whole country in times of emergency. But I don’t want to do so because it affects the rights and freedom of a lot of people,” he said.

The prime minister also ordered the ministries of Interior and National Defence; the National Police; the commanders of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and Military Police to prepare forces to guard quarantine facilities.

“I call on authorities at all levels to check on those who are self-quarantining at their houses to see if they are doing it properly. If they cannot do it properly, please hurry to invite them to quarantine centres prepared by the health departments. Whether it be in Phnom Penh or the provinces, they have to guard quarantine centres strictly. This is not detention but a need to self-isolate,” he said.

The health ministry said on November 10 that 1,166 people have been tested twice for the virus following the November 3 event.

Results obtained from the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) showed that three people – Suos Yara, Sor Chetra and the Hungarian ambassador to Cambodia and Vietnam – tested positive for Covid-19 and are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. A Cambodian bodyguard assigned to the Hungarian delegation also tested positive for Covid-19.

The ministry said 1,140 people had tested negative while 23 samples continued to be analysed by the IPC.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post on November 10 that as of November 9, the ministry found that people from two provincial education departments, the Karate-Do Club at Olympic Stadium and nine private schools had been in contact with Szijarto.

“These units under the education ministry were prepared to consistently carry out measures advised by the health ministry. The education ministry has halted studies temporarily for two weeks and continued online learning in Phnom Penh, Kandal province and other target locations. The ministry also closed Olympic Stadium temporarily until further notice,” he said.

As of November 10, Cambodia had recorded 300 Covid-19 patients, 60 of them women. Of the total, 288 have recovered while the remaining 12 are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

Meanwhile, the health ministry announced that individuals who fail to carry out quarantine measures will be fined between 200,000 and one million riel ($50 and $250) and subject to prosecution under Article 8 of the Criminal Code.

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