Commune Authorities Look to Enforce Tightening Lockdown Requirements

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A road closure during the Covid-19 lockdown near Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market on April 15, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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Local-level authorities are navigating the enforcement of Phnom Penh and Takhmao city’s tightening lockdown rules amid an ongoing Covid-19 surge, saying commuters need permits but delivery drivers do not, and limited outdoor exercise is being allowed while preserving safety.

Prime Minister Hun Sen over the weekend issued a revised notice introducing stricter lockdown measures in the capital and Takhmao, limiting the staffing of some essential businesses to just 2 percent, and banning outdoor exercise and sporting activities.

A further measure on Monday introduced “red zones” in three districts while announcing more inspections at grocery stores and food businesses. The Health Ministry also put first Covid-19 vaccine doses on hold while rescheduling second doses so they can be taken within residents’ own districts. A countrywide inter-provincial travel ban has also been extended till April 28.

Commune authorities said they were working to disseminate and enforce the changing rules, but realities varied somewhat between areas.

Chum Saray, Phnom Penh Thmey commune chief, said the principles were the same for every district, but there were some cases that were based in reality and couldn’t be avoided, such as travel to hospitals or by civil servants.

Sometimes authorities were lenient for patients, though they would not allow them to travel to other provinces, he said.

Officers also faced some difficulty in verifying letters issued by private companies when they did not know the companies, he said. Commuting workers need letters from their employers along with their ID card and company certification, Saray said.

Food delivery drivers, however, did not need any permission letters, he said, adding that some people were still exercising outside their houses though officers are telling them not to.

He was concerned about three small markets and whether they could become a source of Covid-19 transmission, he said.

“We continue to inspect and patrol and disseminate through loudspeakers about the government’s principles as well as the Health Ministry’s principles,” he said.

Obek Kaorm commune chief Yim Rath said all commuting was banned to and from his commune due to one village seeing a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

However, the delivery of food and necessities continued to be allowed without a specific permit, he said.

Authorities were not completely banning outdoor activities, especially for people unrelated to the Covid-19 cluster, he said. People can exercise even though they are not allowed, based on the principle but that they maintain social distancing and wear masks, Rath said.

However, some people were still having gatherings and drinking, which would not be allowed, he said.

“Some of our people are still stubborn,” he said. “Some of our people don’t understand.”

Toek Thla commune chief Tan Narin said commuters needed permits from district authorities, while food delivery was allowed.

Individual exercise like walking and running was still OK, Narin said.

Phsar Thmey I commune chief Sy Taun, however, said she would not allow exercise.

“Commune police and village guards tell them not to do it and we have to follow samdech’s advice to stay inside the house and not go out,” Taun said, though she acknowledged enforcement was not 100 percent.

While people could still go to the market in Phsar Thmey I, Nov Bun, deputy commune chief at O’Russei I, which has seen a cluster of cases linked to the major O’Russei market, said all markets — big and small — were closed.

There was only some sales directly to houses or on trolleys, Bun said. Some people still go out to exercise early in the mornings, but authorities are working to put a stop to it, he said.

“Even though some people feel unhappy, it is a good measure for prevention,” he said. “If we allow it to happen, [the outbreak] will be extended.”

In Takhmao city, Takhmao commune police chief Hor Sam Ol said every road in and out was being policed.

Only one market remained open, while supermarkets needed to restrict entry to five or 10 customers at one time, Sam Ol said.

Public parks were closed, but people could exercise “on the road in front of their houses,” he said.

Roka Khpos commune police chief Khun Narith said rules were similar for his area, where residents could do some exercise as long as they did not go far from their houses.

Separately, the Health Ministry on Monday announced a rescheduling of second vaccine doses, saying they would be done within residents’ own districts. People in Takhmao would receive their second doses at the city’s Chey Chumneas hospital and would not be allowed to go to Phnom Penh, it said.

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