Cambodia to Suspend Travel In and Out of Vietnam, Virus Cases Up to 47

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A woman walks by the Health Ministry in Phnom Penh on January 29, 2020 (Panha Chorpoan/VOD)

The nation’s Covid-19 total case count rose to 47 on Thursday, as the government announced that it will temporarily suspend travel between Cambodia and Vietnam for both nations’ citizens, effective late Friday.

The measure is aimed at avoiding inconveniences for citizens of both nations who would be quarantined in Vietnam due to its new travel restrictions, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Vietnam stopped issuing new entry visas to all foreign nationals beginning Wednesday, in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, Vietnamese state media reported.

Vietnam also said travelers coming from the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asian nations will be quarantined for 14 days, while others will be “quarantined at home or other places of accommodation under supervision by local authorities,” VNExpress reported.

Cambodia requested that Vietnam inform Vietnamese nationals not to travel to Cambodia while Vietnam’s travel restrictions are in effect, in an effort to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease, according to the ministry statement.

The travel suspensions would not apply to Cambodian or Vietnamese holders of diplomatic or official passports, the ministry said.

Cambodia “proposes that the local authorities of [the] two countries work together to facilitate and ensure that the transport of goods across the common border can be carried out without disruption,” the statement says.

The government also requested that Vietnamese authorities facilitate the repatriation of any Cambodians currently quarantined in Vietnam, it added.

Cambodia earlier told citizens not to travel to European nations, the U.S. or Iran, following the issuing of entry bans for people traveling from Iran, France, Germany, Italy, Spain or the U.S.

On Thursday, the Interior Ministry ordered governors of provinces along the Vietnam border, National Police and immigration police chiefs to suspend travel of Cambodian and Vietnamese nationals between the two countries by midnight Friday, to limit Covid-19’s spread.

The ministry also ordered Cambodian authorities along the border to work with Vietnamese authorities on the repatriation of any quarantined Cambodians, and ensure the flow of goods across the shared border.

As of Thursday evening, the Health Ministry has confirmed 47 cases of Covid-19 in Cambodia, including four Cambodians and six Malaysians in three provinces and Phnom Penh announced late Thursday.

Of the 10 new cases, two Cambodian men are among 23 Cambodians who tested positive for the virus this week after having recently attended a Muslim religious gathering in Malaysia linked to hundreds of positive cases of the disease across Southeast Asia. Two Cambodian women who tested positive are the spouses of others who attended the gathering and earlier tested positive, the ministry said.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told VOD earlier on Thursday that officials were still seeking some for testing among 79 people who recently returned to Cambodia after attending the gathering. Vandine did not say how many of the 79 have been tested so far.

In total, 28 Cambodians and 19 foreign nationals have tested positive in the country, including a Chinese man who recovered and left the country in February.

The Cambodian government has ordered closed public and private schools, museums, dance clubs, karaoke venues, or KTVs, and cinemas, as well as banned religious gatherings and public concerts.

Provincial health departments on Thursday said they were prepared to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, while dozens of people were awaiting test results.

In Battambang province, about 50 people have been tested for the virus, with four in the hospital after testing positive and others waiting for results, said Voeung Bunreth, director of the provincial health department.

Bunreth said results have been delayed because it has taken time to gather samples, and because all samples must be sent to Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh.

After officials confirmed the four positive cases, they have tested some of those people’s family members and others who were in contact with them, Bunreth said.

The department has an adequate number of health officials and received equipment from the Health Ministry on Wednesday night, Bunreth said, but he declined to say how many staff worked in his department and what supplies they received.

“We do have equipment to respond. The ministry already supplied it. There are not any challenges yet,” Bunreth said.

Amid the current global outbreak, he said people should avoid large gatherings and keep a distance of more than a meter from others. He also asked people to use surgical masks or kramas to cover their faces, and maintain good hygiene and a clean house.

Covid-19, which was first detected in China, has spread to more than 150 countries and territories, infected more than 220,000 people globally and been linked to more than 9,100 deaths.

In Kep, where four people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus are being treated in a provincial hospital, Kep health department director Men Sothy said his office was ready, and had received additional supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE), from the Health Ministry this week.

In a letter to Health Minister Mam Bunheng dated Tuesday, Sothy said his department needed PPE supplies to prepare for its Covid-19 response.

Sothy did not share details about the department’s health supply stocks, or how many health officers were standing by.

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh emailed notices to U.S. citizens in Cambodia this week, saying that provincial health-care facilities may be “underdeveloped and lacking the resources to provide an expected level of care.”

It noted that provincial hospitals expect family members to provide admitted patients with bed linens, meals and hygiene care.

Prak Von, director of the Kampong Chhnang provincial health department, said his office had taken samples from 24 people, with three testing positive for the virus so far, and 13 awaiting results.

The director said 62 health officials of his nearly 700-person staff have been trained to respond to the viral outbreak and have started to train all provincial hospital staff.

His department also educated local people about personal hygiene best practices and other preventative measures, such as recommending that people who recently traveled overseas isolate themselves for 14 days upon returning home.

Von said his department has 30 protective suits for health workers, and would request additional equipment from the Health Ministry if his office ran short.

“But we still have it now,” he said. “The situation is still manageable.”

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