Corpses No Longer Tested for Covid-19 in Provinces

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Crematorium personnel wearing protective equipment wait as a body is cremated at Dangkao district’s Russei Sanh pagoda on July 14, 2021. (Mech Dara/VOD)

Provincial authorities say they are no longer testing dead bodies for Covid-19 as part of a change in policy as the country pursues a gradual reopening of businesses and tourism, though Phnom Penh said it had yet to make the change.

Covid-19 infection numbers plunged to around a quarter of the previous trend on October 1 after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a reduction in testing as part of “learning to live with Covid-19,” and this week deaths also roughly halved starting Monday.

Kampong Speu governor Vei Samnang said he had received Hun Sen’s instructions to stop rapid testing on corpses.

“It was only us that was doing it, so we are implementing it like other [countries], and our goal is that we will no longer poke into all corpses,” Samnang said.

He said the previous policy of testing all dead bodies was an effort to trace the spread of Covid-19 when the country was still unvaccinated. “But we have currently reached the third dose,” he said.

“So the bodies of those who died at home, due to traffic accidents … or drowning, before we did it, but now there is no need.”

He added that gatherings for funerals were still limited, and people should continue to take preventative measures so “we can give an opportunity for our country to reopen the economy, all kinds of sectors including tourism, schools … it could reopen in November.”

The Oddar Meanchey provincial administration also announced that governor Pen Kosal had attended a closed meeting with a national Covid-19 committee with Hun Sen, who had directed them regarding Covid-19 deaths and other issues.

“Strengthen medical measures for the cremation of Covid-19, stop testing for Covid-19 in people who have died of various physical ailments,” the administration posted on Wednesday of the instructions.

Phnom Penh’s Dangkao commune chief Soeun Serey said on Thursday that so far this month the commune had been testing corpses for Covid-19, and found two cases among 14 dead bodies. Instructions to stop had yet to reach her commune, she said.

“We continue to take samples, and we cannot skip it,” Serey said. “Before, every day we were taking samples from two or three [bodies], but now it has decreased.”

City Hall spokesperson Met Measpheakdey said the city did not have a new policy for testing corpses. “There is no change yet. We continue to implement the same policy.”

He also said there was no change in allowing large weddings, despite articles posted — and later removed — from government new websites.

The Health Ministry announced 151 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, and 11 deaths — seven of them unvaccinated.

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