UPDATED 6:07 p.m. — Cambodia confirmed 12 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, doubling the nation’s previous infection count, which now stands at 24, the Health Ministry said.
Eleven of the 12 men who tested positive for the virus on Monday were among 79 Cambodian Muslims who attended an Islamic gathering in Malaysia in late February, the ministry said in a statement. Another Cambodian who tested positive had recently returned from Thailand.
Four of the new cases were identified in Battambang province; two cases each in Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey and Kampong Chhnang; and one case each in Kampot and Tbong Khmum, the ministry said. Ten people are being treated in provincial hospitals, while the two in Phnom Penh are at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.
The ministry identified 10 of the 12 new patients as ranging in age from 28 to 75 years old. Ages for two men from Banteay Meanchey’s Serei Saophoan City were not specified.
The government also ordered a temporary ban on all religious gatherings, effective immediately, in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, according to a Health Ministry letter released late on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the Health Ministry announced that five individuals had tested positive for the respiratory disease: a Cambodian man traveling from France, two Cambodians who attended a Muslim religious ceremony in Malaysia on February 29, and a French man and his 4-month-old baby who traveled from Paris.
On Monday, the government ordered all schools to close nationwide until further notice.
The Health Ministry said an emergency response team and health officials continue to look for people who were in contact with those who have tested positive, especially those who attended the religious gathering in Malaysia.
In a separate notice, Health Minister Mam Bunheng said the ministry will use the Great Duke hotel in Phnom Penh, which shuttered at the end of last year, as a quarantine site for treating Covid-19 patients.
The viral strain has spread to 150 countries and territories, and infected more than 167,000 people worldwide since late December, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is linked to more than 6,600 deaths globally, about half in China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected. Some 80,000 people have recovered from the disease.
In a letter on Tuesday, Bunheng, the health minister, requested that Tourism Minister Thong Khon and municipal and provincial governors shut all karaoke venues, or KTVs, and movie theaters across the country, effective immediately, until the situation surrounding Covid-19 improves.
The 10th Cambodia International Film Festival, which kicked off in Phnom Penh on Friday and is scheduled to run screenings till March 22, asked the public in a Facebook post to “stay tuned” for updates about cinema closures.
Updated at 4:30 p.m. with information about possible KTV and cinema closures.
Updated at 6:07 p.m. with information about a temporary ban on all religious gatherings.