Buildings Locked Down as ‘February 20’ Cluster Expands

4 min read
Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine points at a coronavirus image at a press conference at the ministry on February 23, 2021. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

More than 20 further locations have been announced as linked to the new Covid-19 outbreak in the capital, with guards and management locking down buildings across Phnom Penh as the number of active coronavirus cases climbed to 118 as of Tuesday morning.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court suspended all scheduled trials and hearings until March 12, while the Culture Ministry ordered all theaters, art venues and museums to close for two weeks.

Schools in Phnom Penh and Kandal province as well as KTVs, nightclubs, beer gardens and other entertainment venues have already been ordered to temporarily close.

Twenty-five new Covid-19 cases were identified Tuesday morning, and infections in the “February 20” cluster have also been found in Kandal and Kampong Thom provinces.

On Tuesday afternoon, Prey Veng provincial deputy governor Chan Tha said 41 residents in his province were now quarantining because a Phnom Penh resident who contracted Covid-19 attended a wedding in Kamchay Mear district last week.

The governor said the 35-year-old Cambodian woman attended a wedding with more than 800 attendees on February 17, and had then tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. However, the woman, who works as a police officer in Phnom Penh, had only attended the lunch from 12 to 3 p.m., and had been in direct contact with 14 people and indirect contact with another 27 individuals, he said.

Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng told VOD on Tuesday that 44 locations in the city had now been closed after being linked to the “February 20” Covid-19 cluster, though a list posted to government-linked news outlet Fresh News as being from the Health Ministry included a total of 47 locations, including condominiums, hotels, KTVs, nightclubs, schools and private residences.

Three military police guards outside one of the locations, the Casa Villa hotel in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Keng Kang I commune, told VOD they had locked down the premises and asked guests and staff to remain inside.

Meanwhile, two district security guards and a traffic cop were also sitting at the front entrance of the Phariya Apartment in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Trabek commune. A security guard said they had guarded the building since a Chinese national in the apartment received a test for Covid-19.

“They temporarily closed [the building] to prevent the spread when there is a person infected, so they can control [the outbreak],” the guard said.

Dara, a staff member and translator working for Phariya Apartment, confirmed the apartment would be locked down for three days, and said 40 residents had been tested for Covid-19.

He said at least one of the residents had direct contact with a Covid-19 patient, and if positive tests are found among the residents, a Health Ministry team would return for additional testing and the lockdown would be extended for another three days.

“If they don’t call us [in three days], then it’s over,” he said by phone, and declined to give his full name.

In the morning, the Health Ministry said two people who tested positive for Covid-19 had either not been found or refused to go to hospital.

But later Tuesday, Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said the two individuals — a Cambodian woman, 42, and a Chinese man, 25 — had been taken to the Chak Angre Health Center. Vandine said the Chinese man had been located, while the Health Ministry team reached a compromise for the woman, who had newly given birth and did not want to leave the infant.

Meanwhile, Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesperson San Sokseyha said police had yet to question the two Sokha Hotel security guards arrested after being deemed responsible for allowing four Chinese women to escape quarantine in connection with the latest outbreak.

However, he said that one of the two guards had been arrested in Battambang province. Sokseyha said he believed they tried to escape after learning there was a “conspiracy” against them, but he was not sure if the guards were employed by the hotel or a private company.

“The important thing is that we need to take preventive action first,” he said. “We don’t know yet whether they have the virus or not.”

When asked whether the guards had accepted bribes to let the four women escape, Sokseyha said he didn’t know.

“We have not questioned them yet, but normally it could be related to a benefit.”

Additional reporting by Danielle Keeton-Olsen

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