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Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

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People wait for Covid-19 testing at Aeon Mall 1 in Phnom Penh on Monday. Hong Menea

Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic.

Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of the new infection had yet to be discovered.

“[Community transmission] is what we are most concerned about. It demands that we operate quickly and on a large scale. This is not the time to blame each other and it is not the time to shift the blame onto this person or that person. It is the time for solidarity,” he said.

The prime minister ordered all municipal and provincial authorities to prepare quarantine centres for those who cannot self-quarantine at home.

“Cambodia either can control the situation or it cannot within the next 15 days. This is a critical time for concerted efforts of the government and the people. I would like to call the next 15 days, at least, to be the most critical moment for Cambodia.
Whether Cambodia comes through or not depends on this time,” Hun Sen said.

“If the government alone works to get through this tough time, and the people don’t join the effort, it will not be successful,” he added.

The prime minister made the remarks as he announced the provision of nearly $300,000 to poor Cambodians who are forced to quarantine for 15 days because of Covid-19, with each household receiving about $5 per day for the isolation period.

“Please don’t make the mistake that I require them to be in quarantine for 15 days. The quarantine is only 14 days. But I will provide them money for 15 days with the purpose of helping poor people,” Hun Sen said on November 30.

“This assistance money is to be provided to only families who have PoorID cards and are kept in quarantine. The Ministry of Health must also provide money to any governors so they can use the funds to help those who are required to quarantine.

Otherwise, they will be in quarantine without rice to put into the pot – and this is not appropriate.”

Speaking during a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction and improvement of roads in Siem Reap province on November 30, Hun Sen said people linked to the recent community transmission must stay at home and local authorities would monitor them and supply foods to poor families forced to quarantine.

The prime minister referred to the recent community transmission of Covid-19 as the “November 28 community event”, referring to the date it was confirmed that the wife of Chhem Savuth, the director-general of prisons, had tested positive for Covid-19.

The government announced that all people suspected of being involved with the November 28 community event could be tested for Covid-19 free of charge. The compensation for poor families in quarantine would be capped at roughly $74 per household.

The health ministry has been tasked with distributing the roughly one billion riel ($290,000) throughout the country. Phnom Penh was provided 100 million riel, Siem Reap province was given 80 million riel and 15 other provinces were granted 50 million riel each. The eight remaining provinces were provided 30 million riel apiece, according to the government.

Ministry of Economy and Finance spokesman Meas Soksensan told The Post on November 30 that the government still had reserve funds to fight Covid-19, and the money would be used for essential operations.

The health ministry on November 30 said 14 had tested positive for Covid-19 in the latest round of testing after the November 28 community event.

Hun Sen said he did not consider Cambodia’s response to the pandemic a failure and that he hoped those who contracted the virus would survive with proper medical attention.

“We have medicine ready for treatment and we have seriously investigated how the virus infected the family of Chhem Savuth. We must use strong medicine to solve this problem and follow the advice of doctors,” he said.

In a recorded message on November 30, Hun Sen ordered Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng and Siem Reap provincial governor Tea Seiha to ban all mass gatherings such as weddings and other celebrations until December 15.

“At the request of the health ministry and the opinion provided by the World Health Organisation, we are required to enact more safety measures in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province,” he said.

The prime minster also asked for understanding from the public as he suspended gatherings of 20 people and more for 15 days.

“We won’t ban people from going out or being on the road, but please don’t cause congestion at traffic lights and please reduce the amount of time spent away from home for the next 15 days. Otherwise, we will be too late [to contain Covid-19],” he said.

The health ministry said that as of November 30, Cambodia had 323 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 71 women. Of those infected, 301 patients had recovered, while 22 were being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and the Chak Angre Health Centre in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

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