Medical workers from the Phnom Penh municipal Department of Health and the Samdech Techo Voluntary Youth Doctor Association (TYDA) have taken samples from monks and laypeople at more than 150 pagodas in the capital for testing after an outbreak of Covid-19 during the first two days of the 15-day Pchum Ben festival.
Cambodian Buddhists observe Pchum Ben for 15 days from September 22 to October 6, with the principal festivities celebrated from October 5-7, ending a day after the main day of “great offering”, or Ben Thom, on October 6 coinciding with the new moon. The holiday is dedicated to their ancestors and is an occasion for families to get together.
Health department director Ngy Mean Heng said the collection took place at 151 pagodas on September 23-24.
TYDA took samples from 75 pagodas while the department collected them at the other 76. Mean did not specify how many monks and laypeople have been tested or how many have been found to be positive.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 23 decided to suspend the Pchum Ben festival from September 25. The decision came after 45 people at Chom Pus Ka-Ek pagoda in Phnom Penh tested positive for Covid-19.
He said if the festival continued with large gatherings, it would be difficult for authorities to enforce health measures and Cambodia could experience large-scale outbreaks that hamper the planned reopening of all schools across the country and the economy.