Covid-19 Positive Patient’s Death in Quarantine ‘Due to Drug Overdose’

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Authorities stand at attention outside a Phnom Penh quarantine center in February 2021. (Phnom Penh Police Facebook)

A Chinese man with Covid-19 died in quarantine in Phnom Penh on Thursday, the Health Ministry said, but ruled his death “due to drug overdose” after an autopsy. In a Facebook post, the ministry further clarified that “there was no drug use” and the death was caused by serious withdrawal symptoms and not Covid-19.

The country had not recorded a death of a Covid-19 positive patient, though there have been previous deaths of people in quarantine.

The Health Ministry’s letter, signed by minister Mam Bunheng and sent to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the man died around 9 a.m. Thursday at a quarantine center in Prek Pnov district after he tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday without showing symptoms.

“The general situation of the patient is he smoked a lot,” the letter says. “After a working group conducted an autopsy on the body on March 4, they found that results from urine showed he had high levels of amphetamines.”

“So this person has used amphetamines for a long time. The conclusion is the patient died immediately due to drug overdose in a relapse causing him to have a heart attack and die immediately,” it says.

The Health Ministry will handle the corpse while taking Covid-19 precautions and in cooperation with the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia, the letter says.

The man was part of the “February 20” cluster that has seen active Covid-19 cases rise to 424 as of Thursday night based on ministry reports, the highest the country has seen.

Updated at 10 a.m. with clarification: The Health Ministry said in a Facebook post that the death was the result of drug addiction and withdrawal symptoms rather than drug use in the quarantine center.

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