UPDATED 6:19 p.m. — All public and informal markets in Phnom Penh are to be closed from Saturday, City Hall has announced, though some remained open — and were drawing many shoppers — as of the morning.
In an order issued Friday night, City Hall said public markets as well as community markets, selling along the roadside, and markets on private land would be closed for 14 days from Saturday through May 7 “to prevent and curb the further spread of the virus.”
Any vendor who traded in the past week must get tested, and their whole families must quarantine for 14 days inside their homes, it said.
“Those who do not follow will not be able to continue selling or open their businesses in the markets when they reopen,” City Hall said, adding that district authorities would be tasked with ensuring the markets are closed down.
The City Hall statement did not state how people across the city were expected to obtain food in place of the markets.
Instead, in a live video posted to the Boeng Keng Kang district administration’s Facebook page around midday, officials drove around on a truck passing out vegetables and other foodstuffs to residents coming out of their homes, though eventually they were down to only packets of mushrooms.
In the morning, meanwhile, dozens of shoppers flocked to streetside vegetable sellers near Olympic Market. Most of the vendors made taped barricades around their stalls to social distance themselves from the crowd, but customers crowded close together on the street.
An egg seller said Saturday would be the last day to buy and urged customers to buy enough for two weeks, as police officers tried to control the crowd using loudspeakers.
Cambodia saw a daily record of new Covid-19 cases on Friday with 655, including 522 community cases in Phnom Penh.
The whole city was put under lockdown last week while still allowing people to go out three times a week to buy food. Several areas were this week further designated as “red zones,” with the Commerce Ministry taking over the sales of food there.
The Commerce Ministry currently sells noodles, rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, pickles and Vital water — made by NVC Corporation, chaired by Choeung Sokuntheavy, the daughter-in-law and step-daughter of senator Lao Meng Khin, and formerly by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana.
A vegetable vendor in Toul Kork district, Chan Puthysak, said there were still a lot of sales happening on Saturday, but much of it was from carts rather than at markets.
“I could move around to a few places in my community,” Puthysak said. “I can go to construction sites and I can sell to workers who have been locked down and they rush to buy from us.”
Sellers in and around markets were being pushed out, and many were turning to mobile sales, he said.
In Takhmao city, which is also under lockdown and just one market remains open, vegetable seller Chanthy, who would not give her full name, said vendors were still trying to sell despite being pushed out of several locations.
“The ones who are in debt will try as hard as the police, in order to earn money,” she said.
Traders in Kandal province added that they have been unable to bring produce into Phnom Penh or Takhmao, though some vendors still managed to reach them for some supplies. “Every night I worry that my clients will be arrested or banned from coming to buy the vegetables,” said Thoeun.
Another trader, Eng, said the supply of produce was down to a small fraction from what it was before.
“I have tried to bring vegetables to Phnom Penh through many ways. Even though I have a confirmation letter from local authorities, I still couldn’t get through, so I decided to bring it back home and throw it away.”
Additional reporting by Danielle Keeton-Olsen
Updated at 6:19 p.m. with comments from vendors and traders.