Cambodian health authorities went on a race against time to trace passengers on a flight from Singapore to Phnom Penh after Frenchman Michelle Dizon Cruz, 35, was confirmed with Covid-19.
While his wife is thus far clear of the disease, his four-month-old baby who flew with him has been tested positive and is receiving treatment at the National Pediatric Hospital, the Ministry of Health said in a press release on Sunday night.
Dizon Cruz and his family had flown from Paris to Singapore on March 13. Showing signs of fever, the authorities there took his samples for examination. However, he was informed that he could carry on with his flight to Phnom Penh and the results would be available accordingly.
The family arrived at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Saturday morning. The same day, the test turned out positive and the medical team approached them at 8:30pm.
On Sunday, Dizon Cruz was admitted to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. The mother and baby stayed at the home of a relative under medical supervision until the baby was confirmed as Covid-19 positive.
In total, 24 passengers (including him and his family) were on the flight from Singapore apart from two transporters who drove them home. All have been traced and are in the process of being examined.
In its Sunday night press release, the Ministry of Heath said a Cambodian national tested positive after travelling from France. He is also being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.
The other two are Cambodian Muslims aged 35 and 39 from Preah Vihear province. The two tested positive after returning to the province from a religious gathering near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on February 29.
On Saturday, some of the attendees reportedly contracted the coronavirus, prompting the Preah Vihear provincial Department of Health to search for 10 people who returned from the Malaysian event.
On the same day, the department took samples from the 10, and two tested positive. They are being transferred to the provincial hospital. The other eight have been quarantined.
Meanwhile, speaking at the River Festival in Battambang on Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said there was a “reactionary” group that claims the government is hiding information about the spread of the virus here.
“The prime minister dismissed the claim arguing that the government has no reason to keep such information a secret.
“Even if the government wanted to hide this information, it wouldn’t be able to. If people are sick, they would know, and they would tell other people and the media about it,” he said.
The prime minister told the people attending the festival that he had recently declined a request from a foreign government to host passengers from the Viking Cruise Journey at five-star hotels in the capital, similar to what was done with passengers from the MS Westerdam.
According to Hun Sen, the foreign official who made the request told the Kampong Cham provincial governor that the passengers of the Viking Cruise Journey might protest and post pictures on Facebook.
Hun Sen said the passengers were allowed to stay in a hotel in Kampong Cham or could go back to the ship and that the ship would not be allowed to depart until meeting all the requirements of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“I would like to send a message to that embassy official ... this is not your land. I need to prioritise the health of my own people. I beg for your understanding. Let’s not hold a grudge and work together to fight the disease,” he said.
“Staying at a hotel in Kampong Cham is not as comfortable as staying in the capital, but it is better than leaving you quarantined in the ship as Japan did with the Princess Diamond,” Hun Sen said.
Three of the 64 passengers of the Viking Cruise Journey tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week. Everyone was put in quarantine. The cruise sailed from Ho Chi Minh on March 5 and arrived in Kampong Cham on March 10.
On Saturday, Cambodia banned the entrance of foreigners from six countries for 30 days. The measure affects France, Germany, Spain, the US, Italy, and Iran.
The travel ban drew criticism on social media with many users questioning why the government didn’t implement similar measures against China.
Hun Sen hit back by saying that the infection rate was very low in China and that the death rate was now down to zero. By contrast, the six countries affected by the ban were now in a state of emergency due to the virus.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Sunday that nationals from the affected countries can enter the Kingdom if they have not been in these countries in the last 14 days.
“If you are travelling from one of these countries, we ask for your understanding. We must take this measure to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport on Friday banned all cruise ships and riverboats from entering the country.
The next day, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport decided to close all schools in the capital and Siem Reap town until further notice.