Updated: Cambodia Reports First Covid-19 Death

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People walk in and out of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh on March 19, 2020. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

UPDATED 8:20 p.m. — Cambodia has confirmed its first death from Covid-19, a Health Ministry statement said on Thursday, with a spokesperson saying the man had been put on a ventilator for two days.

A 50-year-old Cambodian man died of Covid-19 on Thursday morning at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, according to the ministry.

The deceased was the driver of a Chinese man in Preah Sihanouk province who had also tested positive for Covid-19, among hundreds of cases tied to the “February 20” community cluster, the statement said.

The Cambodian man tested positive for Covid-19 on February 27, it said.

The deceased was a resident of Chak Angre Krom commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, and had been treated at Chak Angre Health Center, according to earlier Health Ministry reports.

The death comes less than three weeks after the “February 20” outbreak was reported, which has been tied to two Chinese women who left quarantine.

The cluster has resulted in more than a doubling of the nation’s total Covid-19 cases since January last year, which stand at more than 1,100 as of Thursday. Schools and businesses have been shuttered around the country, with some villages and Preah Sihanouk province facing travel lockdowns.

Last week, a Covid-19 patient died in a Phnom Penh quarantine center, which the Health Ministry said was the result of illicit drug abuse. Two days later Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered people who had tested positive for Covid-19 to be moved from the facility.

On Thursday, Senate president Say Chhum signed into effect a law on measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases, according to an official document published by government-aligned media outlet Fresh News.

The Senate on Thursday morning unanimously approved the law, which includes penalties of up to 20 years in prison for intentionally spreading the disease.

The 39 senators present voted in favor of the legislation, a statement from the Senate’s general secretariat said.

Rights advocates have called the law “draconian” and the “wrong approach” to a public health challenge.

In a message sent to journalists Thursday afternoon, Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said a scan of the man’s lungs had shown issues in both lungs and he had been unable to get enough oxygen.

“The medical team worked hard to provide treatment as best they could, but his sickness developed seriously,” Vandine said.

She said that his condition deteriorated on Tuesday, and he was put on a ventilator.

“We used all the technology that other countries have been using to save lives from Covid, but regrettably our intervention could not help [him],” she said.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng said in April last year that the country had a supply of 200 ventilators at the time.

Updated at 1:21 p.m. with additional details about the deceased man.

Updated at 2:28 p.m. with details about the Senate’s approval of a draft Covid-19 law.

Updated at 6:43 p.m. with some details about man’s condition.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. with details about the Covid-19 law going into effect.

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