Three days after reopening, Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall temporarily shuttered some shops at the Health Ministry’s request amid widening concerns over a local cluster of Covid-19 cases.
Aeon Mall was closed early last week after the wife of the country’s prisons director was found to have Covid-19 on November 28. She had visited the mall on November 21. Staff were tested, but returned to work by Thursday.
Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said last week that the decision to reopen was made by Prime Minister Hun Sen to balance economic costs with public health concerns.
“We got all results of the tests and knew who was positive and negative. So the reopening was appreciating [the need] to allow our local economy and market to move forward,” Vandine said.
Kev Darak, a restaurant manager at the mall, said he and his staff were tested last week on Sunday and Monday and were ordered back to work for Thursday.
He had some concerns about possible transmission, but agreed to return because it was his job and he trusted the Health Ministry, he said.
“I have worries, but I have no choice. I’m required to come to work,” he said.
Min Dana, a clothing seller at the mall, said the shop had almost no customers since it reopened.
“At this time, it’s empty,” Dana said.
The shop regularly disinfected the premises, and staff were careful about social distancing, she said.
Ouch Vuthy, president of the Virtue Medical Association, said the mall’s reopening was too fast as community transmission was still happening and preventive measures such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining a distance could not completely prevent transmissions.
He added that many Covid-19 patients show no symptoms so the disease cannot be detected just by checking body temperatures.
“The risk is that. Covid can stay dormant in the human body,” Vuthy said, adding that he nevertheless understood the need to consider economic costs. Vuthy’s association has about 20 clinics among its membership, he said. It fell foul of Health Ministry licensing requirements in Siem Reap in 2015.
Aeon Mall said in a Facebook post on Saturday that some stores will be temporarily closed following the directions of the Health Ministry. Company management could not be reached for comment.
As of Monday, 32 people have been found to have Covid-19 in the cluster around the prisons director’s wife. Schools, cinemas and museums have been closed and people told to avoid gatherings of more than 20 people.