Cambodia to Block Travelers From Five Western Nations, Close Schools

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People in the lobby area of the Phnom Penh International Airport on March 11, 2020 (VOD)

UPDATED 9:50 a.m. — Cambodia will ban entry for foreigners traveling from five Western nations for 30 days, beginning on Tuesday, and close schools in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City in an effort to halt the spread of Covid-19, government ministries said on Saturday.

Foreigners traveling from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the U.S. will not be allowed to enter Cambodia, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

The Education Ministry said all public and private schools that follow the state curriculum in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City would be closed, effective immediately, in response to the global Covid-19 outbreak.

An annual two-week school break in April during the Khmer New Year festival would begin early, the ministry said in a statement. Students will return to school after the Khmer New Year holiday period, which is publicly observed April 14 to 16 this year, the ministry added.

Cambodia has reported seven cases of the respiratory disease, including a Canadian man and Belgian man on Friday, who have been quarantined in a Phnom Penh hospital.

One is a staff member of the Canadian International School (CIS) of Phnom Penh, who the school said was “likely infected when he recently travelled to Thailand.”

The employee “has not been within any CIS campus since March 6th,” the private school said in a statement on its website.

Three British tourists tested positive earlier this week, and are also in hospital quarantine. A Cambodian man who tested positive last week is quarantined as well. Cambodia’s first confirmed case of the virus, a Chinese man, recovered and left the country last month.

Cambodia was taking “preventative measures against the transmission of Covid-19” after foreigners in the country had tested positive for the virus, the Health Ministry said.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine did not immediately reply to questions from VOD about why the five nations were selected for travel bans, but not China, where the viral strain was first detected and the majority of infections and deaths have been reported.

The virus has infected more than 145,000 people, more than 71,000 of whom have recovered, and been linked to more than 5,400 deaths, according to data from the U.S., E.U., China and World Health Organization (WHO) compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The disease has spread to about 100 nations worldwide.

Of the eight countries that have reported the most total infections, Cambodia said it would block travelers from five of them, leaving out China, which has by far the most cases and has restricted travel for its citizens, and Iran and South Korea, which have the third- and fourth-most cases, respectively.

China has confirmed some 81,000 total infections and more than 3,100 deaths.

Italy has reported more than 17,000 infections and over 1,200 deaths; Iran, more than 11,000 infections and over 500 deaths; South Korea, more than 8,000 infections and 72 deaths.

In Spain, more than 5,200 infections and 133 deaths have been confirmed. France has reported 79 deaths; the U.S., 47 deaths; and Germany, eight deaths. All four countries combined have reported about 15,000 infections.

CIS, the private school, has requested all students who traveled or will travel to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea “stay home for 14 days after they return to Phnom Penh.” The viral strain’s incubation period is estimated to be between one and 14 days, most commonly about five days, according to WHO.

In addition to preventative health measures, including temperature checks and hand sanitizing upon entry to the school, CIS said school nurses would monitor twice daily all students and staff who traveled to Japan, Germany, France, Spain, the U.S. or Siem Reap in the past week, and asked parents to inform school staff if their children had went to Siem Reap or one of the five nations.

Update: The Health Ministry on Sunday said it will also “ban foreigners from Iran from entering Cambodia for 30 days,” effective Wednesday, according to a statement.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. on March 15, 2020 with information from a Health Ministry statement

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