Phnom Penh’s police chief said on Wednesday that authorities have yet to track down two Chinese men who escaped from Covid-19 quarantine on September 9 despite authorities searching for two weeks.
The two men were quarantined at a Phnom Penh hotel on September 8 after arriving on a China Eastern Airlines flight from Shanghai. They were required to wait two nights for test results from all passengers on the flight, but fled after just one night.
“It isn’t that we’ve let them go free — that we are strict against Cambodians but lax when it comes to foreigners,” said Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief Sar Thet. “Once they escape, it is not easy for us to catch them.”
Five previous escapees — all Cambodian or Cambodian-American — were found and brought back to quarantine within days.
Thet said police had detained a Chinese man thought to be an accomplice in the escape, but the man did not provide any concrete information.
The Chinese national did not have a visa or even a passport, so police had started the process for his deportation to China, Thet said.
Police remained on the lookout for the two escapees, he added. “They cannot go into crowds. They may be hiding somewhere. We are working to find them.”
Authorities had once again tightened up security at quarantine centers, including designated hotels, by deploying police and military police officers, and would do more as required by health authorities, Thet said. Officials also promised tighter security after previous breaches.
“If they need more forces, we can add more,” he said.
Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said all passengers on the escapees’ flight had tested negative for Covid-19.
The ministry was working with police and other institutions to maintain security at quarantine centers, she added.
“We’ve done a lot of things,” Vandine said. “It is a normal issue: If someone wants to run away, they will still [try to] run.”
She previously said that escapees could be fined $50 to $250, and could be criminally charged if they escaped after testing positive for Covid-19.
Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng said earlier this month that City Hall had contracted 10 hotels to act as temporary quarantine centers. They were responsible for what happens inside their premises, but City Hall was also deploying forces outside to help with security, he said.
Cambodia has recorded 275 cases of Covid-19 as of Thursday, with just one active case remaining and no reported deaths linked to the virus.