Bou Sarom, 78, was running a high fever when he arrived at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on Friday, but was told to go home to await his Covid-19 test result, his daughter says.
He died the next day. Mid-funeral that night, the family received a call: Sarom had Covid-19, and his body would need to be retrieved and disposed of.
A team of health officers arrived and took Sarom, in a black bag, away in their van.
Sarom’s death is not one of the four deaths of Covid-19 patients announced by health authorities since Saturday, including a 39-year-old man whose death was disclosed Monday evening. A 43-year-old woman’s death was attributed to blood loss, not Covid-19, while the deaths of 72- and 76-year-old women were announced on Sunday.
A Health Ministry spokesperson declined to comment on Sarom’s case.
Bou Serey, Sarom’s daughter, says her father was diagnosed with dengue fever earlier Friday at a private hospital, but was advised to go to Khmer-Soviet because his temperature was too high.
“At that time my father was in very critical condition and his temperature nearly reached 40 Celsius, and he could barely walk,” Serey says. “But he endured it and wanted to get the result of the test so that he could get treatment.”
Khmer-Soviet took a sample for Covid-19 testing, but could not take him in, she says.
“I wanted him to get treatment at the hospital but the doctor asked us to leave and go home,” Serey says. “How can an old person like him endure this like a young person?”
The family still has a hard time believing he had Covid-19, because 18 members who had contact with him have been tested since Saturday and all are negative, she says.
The family must quarantine for 14 days at their Meanchey district home, and want help with supplies since they cannot go out to buy food, she says.
“And I want to know what happened to my father’s ashes, and whether they will give us his ashes or not.”
Van Chandara, village chief of Stung Meanchey’s Russei I village, says local authorities did not know how Sarom could have contracted Covid-19.
“Villagers are concerned” for the family, Chandara says. “They are praying that all of them aren’t infected with Covid. They would congratulate them if there is no transmission.”
Khmer-Soviet director Ngy Meng could not be reached for comment.
Cambodia has officially recorded 14 deaths of Covid-19 positive patients, though three of the deaths have been attributed to other causes. The country currently has over 1,000 active cases amid a spike since the emergence of the “February 20” cluster.