Sixteen Cambodian migrant workers who returned from Thailand have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days.
As a result the provincial authorities on the Cambodian-Thai border have increased restrictions on quarantine accommodations and intensified their monitoring of all border crossing points, both legal and illegal, in the hope that no returning migrant workers will manage to enter Cambodia without first being tested and isolated.
For now, Thai authorities are not allowing their citizens or any foreign nationals to move between provinces in an attempt to bring the outbreak under control.
On December 31, Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training called on all Cambodians who are currently in Thailand to shelter in place and not attempt to travel within Thailand or to Cambodia at this time due to the increased risks of transmissions.
“[Cambodian citizens] can face detention and fines imposed by the Thai authorities if they illegally travel during the present ban.
“For now, in order to protect the health of [Cambodians in Thailand], their families and the public, Cambodian quarantine teams on the Cambodian-Thai border will have to take samples from [returning] workers for Covid-19 testing.
“The teams will also have to place [all returning citizens] in quarantine for 14 days in provinces bordering Thailand no matter which route they used to enter Cambodia,” the ministry said.
The committee tasked with providing support to Cambodian migrants who are living and working in Thailand is in regular contact with the Thai authorities. In the future, it said Thailand’s ministries of Interior and Labour will jointly undertake a headcount of foreign migrant workers before issuing temporary work permits to them.
They intend to issue these permits to Cambodian migrant workers whether they have identity documents or not.
Separately, a 52-year-old Cambodia migrant worker died on January 2 while being isolated at the 2nd Quarantine Centre in Tbong Khmum province. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said on January 3 that the man apparently fell and hit his head on a toilet seat. His first test for Covid-19 had proven negative on December 30.
Vandine said the worker had returned on December 28 from Thailand’s Chonburi province via the O’Smach international border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province.
After a preliminary health check, he had been placed on a military truck that transported him to the Tbong Khmum provincial quarantine centre. Doctors had been checking his health every morning and all signs were normal.
“People were looking for him after they noticed he hadn’t been seen in a while. When they pried open the door of the bathroom, they saw he was lying dead on the floor. This happened at about 9am on Saturday,” she said.
She added that his body was examined and it was determined that he had died from an injury to his head that caused his skull to fracture and bleed.
The wife of the late 52-year-old reported that her husband had a history of heart problems and that he had been treated for a long time in Thailand. Her late husband had not informed anyone at the quarantine centre about his heart condition since arriving there.
As of January 2, Cambodia had recorded a total of 381 Covid-19 cases, with 362 recoveries. Of the 19 remaining hospitalised, 16 are Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand. Of the 16 workers, six are being treated at the Battambang Provincial Referral Hospital and 10 at the Pailin Provincial Referral Hospital.
On January 2, Prime Minister Hun Sen authorised the health ministry to disburse a 650 million riel aid package to the provinces bordering the Cambodian-Thai border because they are carrying the burden of organising and enforcing quarantine for the returning migrant workers. The provinces set to receive the funds are Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Pailin.
Health ministry secretary of state York Sambath said because a number of returning migrant workers had tested positive for Covid-19 on January 1 in Pailin province, the province was provided with two more resuscitation machines and five more machines to monitor patient’s vital signs along with 25 litres of disinfectant.
Sambath also said the ministry had sent specialist doctors from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital to assist the Pailin Provincial Referral Hospital.
On the evening of December 31, Hun Sen ordered all border forces to maintain strict control of all crossing points and vigilantly monitor all activities taking place there.
“These numbers worry me and as an emergency measure we need all provincial authorities and [police and military] forces on the border to stay on alert and keep control over every single migrant worker who returns from Thailand,” he said.
The prime minister also made a plea to all Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand, whether they are there legally or illegally, to remain in place there until further notice due to these difficult circumstances.
Separately, on January 4 Minister attached to the Prime Minister Ouch Borith and other officials will deliver two million face masks and other medical supplies to Nepal.
Hun Sen has previously sent face masks and medical supplies to other countries in the region that were in need such as Laos, Myanmar and East Timor.