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Vigilance urged as Covid cases soar

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Health workers prepare to transport a Covid-19 positive patient in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on Saturday. Police

Vigilance urged as Covid cases soar

Officials have reiterated calls for the public to remain vigilant as the number of Covid-19 cases linked to the February 20 community transmission continues to rise.

On March 14 alone, the Ministry of Health reported another 41 cases of Covid-19 linked to the community outbreak, bringing the total to 792 in just over three weeks.

Among the 41 are 12 Cambodian, 23 Chinese, four Vietnamese and two Thai nationals. Kandal province recorded the most cases at 28, followed by Phnom Penh at 12 and one in Prey Veng province.

People infected with Covid-19 in the country’s third community transmission have so far been found in the capital and the provinces of Kandal, Preah Sihanouk, Svay Rieng, Koh Kong, Kampong Thom, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap and Battambang.

Overall, as of March 14, Cambodia had recorded a total of 1,305 Covid-19 cases, with 656 receiving ongoing treatment and one death.

Hun Manet, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), and health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine urged vigilance as authorities prepare additional treatment facilities for Covid-19 patients.

In a Facebook post on March 14, Manet said: “We are carrying out Samdech Techo’s [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s] orders for the preparation of hospitals to be used for the treatment of Covid-19 patients when necessary.

“Our working group has been toiling days and nights to ensure that the facilities will be ready to begin operations and receive patients for treatment as soon as possible.”

Manet also called on residents to continue to strictly implement the health ministry’s measures for self-protection and the protection of their families and society as a whole during this period of hardship.

He said combating Covid-19 starts with protecting oneself from infection to prevent the virus from spreading.

The health ministry’s Vandine noted that the current outbreak includes the newly-identified Covid-19 variants, which are now actively circulating in Cambodia.

“These new Covid-19 variants are more contagious and deadly than the original strain and they can kill any person at any time. We have already had one death recently, and there are still Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment who are in serious condition, with medical specialists working tirelessly to save their lives,” she said.

Vandine urged the public to stay home and refrain from holding large gatherings including weddings and religious ceremonies. These measures, she said, are necessary to minimise infections.

Elsewhere in the world, some countries have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine due to safety concerns.

Vandine explained that the type of vaccine that Cambodia receives from the COVAX Facility – marketed as Covishield – was made in India under a manufacturing licence from British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology firm AstraZeneca Plc.

“As reported by the World Health Organisation [WHO], which is one of the main facilitators in supplying Covid-19 vaccines to Cambodia, there has been no problems with side effects from this vaccine. Besides, the vaccine that our country is currently using is not the same type of vaccine that is causing problems in Europe,” she said.

The WHO in Cambodia, according to Vandine, had said continued vaccination in Cambodia was necessary to combat the Covid-19 outbreak.

From February 10 to March 13, the health ministry said it had vaccinated 161,818 civilians with their first dose of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and 9,033 with a second dose.

In the same period, the Ministry of National Defence said it had inoculated 108,648 members of the armed forces with the first dose and 47,751 with a second dose.

Separately, Vandine confirmed that the death of a 69-year-old Covid-19 patient who was undergoing treatment at Prey Veng Provincial Referral Hospital was due to cardiovascular disease, not from the coronavirus.

She said the Cambodian man had tested positive for Covid-19 and was hospitalised on March 13, but noted that he did not have any advanced Covid-19 symptoms like coughing, fatigue or fever.

On the morning of March 14, the man went out to exercise for a long period of time and then came back to have a long nap. When he was called to eat breakfast, it was discovered that he had passed away.

As part of an ongoing battle against the pandemic, the government on March 12 issued a new sub-decree on health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other contagious diseases.

Comprising nine chapters and 39 articles, the new sub-decree detailed health measures – hygiene practice, temperature checks, mask wearing, physical distancing, sample taking, quarantine, treatment, vaccinations and the management of deceased Covid-19 patients’ body.

The handling of Covid-19 patients’ corpse in a manner that does not comply with the regulations set forth in the new sub-decree will incur a fine of between five and 20 million riel ($1,250 and $5,000).

Individuals who have been in contact with Covid-19 infected persons who refuse to cooperate with health officials to have their samples taken for testing will be fined one-to-five million riel.

“Those who pay the fines are still required to have their samples taken for testing for Covid-19 by health officials,” states Article 21 of the sub-decree.

Article 19 of the sub-decree states that individuals who fail to wear masks in high-risk places as determined by the health ministry will be fined between 200,000 and one million riel, after being given one warning.

Event organisers who fail to follow social distancing guidelines will be fined one to five million riel, also after being given a first warning.

Article 20 of the sub-decree states that private establishments or business owners that fail to follow the guidelines for wearing masks and physical distancing will be fined two to 10 million riel after being given one warning by the authorities.

Article 25 of the sub-decree stipulates that Covid-19 patients who fail to follow the procedures for treatment will incur fines ranging from two to 10 million riel.

Article 26 states: “Fines of 10 to 50 million riel are to be imposed on all private medical establishments which fail to urgently notify the health ministry in cases where patients who are receiving treatment from them are suspected of having evaded quarantine or have fled from quarantine sites.”

The sub-decree was drawn up in compliment with the law on the control of Covid-19 and other serious, dangerous and contagious diseases.

The law was promulgated on March 11 by Senate president and acting head of state Say Chhum. Minister of Justice Koeut Rith and Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng are set to hold a joint press conference at 9am on March 15 to inform the public about the law.

Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin said this new law is to be translated into English and Chinese so that foreigners residing in Cambodia can learn about it.

Malin also encouraged the various embassies in Cambodia to inform their citizens who come to Cambodia about the law’s requirements.

Concerning the law, National Assembly president Heng Samrin called on all Cambodians, government officials and law enforcement authorities to obey it to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In a Facebook post on March 13, he said: “Fully abiding by this law in the spirit of being socially responsible citizens is crucial in order to maintain the wellbeing of our society and protect it from this brutal virus.

“If we don’t obey this law, it is like we are willfully trying to destroy our own health as well as the health of our family members, society as a whole and the economy. Those who break it will have to be fined and punished according to the law.”

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