Little Clarity Over Covid-19 Results for Quarantined NagaWorld Workers

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A testing station for NagaWorld protesters on Phnom Penh Koh Pich on February 5, 2022. (UNOHCHR Cambodia)
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Quarantined NagaWorld union workers said PCR test results trickled in this week, with one worker saying they had received conflicting information about their infection status. 

Last week, local authorities and health officials effectively brought the 50-daylong strike to an end after they forced strikers to get tested for Covid-19, after a fellow protester tested positive two weeks prior. The government announced about 40 positive cases based on rapid tests, with PCR tests expected to come in during the week. Even if protesters tested negative, authorities ruled they were expected to quarantine at home for seven days.

Vicheka, who tested positive last weekend and didn’t want to reveal her full name, said she had been contacted by health officials confirming she had the more-contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus. She was being treated at a makeshift treatment center at Olympic Stadium. 

She was with fellow Labor Rights Supported Union (LRSU) members, but after getting the PCR test result she was shifted to a separate area meant for Omicron patients. 

“I am with other people who have the Omicron variant. But I don’t have any bad symptoms. It’s normal,” she said. 

She said there were many people at the center, making it noisy and hard to sleep at night. 

There has been a recent spike in Covid-19 cases, with the Health Ministry reporting more than 200 cases a day since Monday. Prime Minister Hun Sen, earlier this week, said most of the Omicron cases were being reported in Phnom Penh. The prime minister also said the virus was spreading to the provinces because of the Lunar New Year celebrations last week. 

Vicheka said she was eager to return to the strike, but admitted being worried about further arrests.

“Currently strikers are getting arrested and it is not only union representatives but other workers are also getting arrested,” she said. 

Police arrested three workers Saturday night who were charged this week with violating the Covid-19 Law. Four other workers have been summoned to appear at the Phnom Penh court before February 19 to face similar charges. 

At the same treatment center, Muth Bory, who worked at NagaWorld for six years before he was fired, said he was first told by doctors that he had Omicron but later other doctors said he didn’t have the new variant of the virus. He also said he was given the PCR results less than 24 hours after he was tested, though the government had said it would take about three days.

“One doctor gave three of us a paper that said we had Omicron. We were shocked and looked at each other,” he said.  

Bory said other workers at Olympic Stadium had received PCR tests and were moved to a separate area. He has been asymptomatic and wanted to recover at home but was asked by his landlord to remain at the state health center. 

Bory said NagaWorld workers, all of whom are still in seven-day quarantine, were taking their advocacy online and posting videos on Facebook. But he was worried about participating because he was at the treatment center. 

“Other coworkers suggested that I do nothing to support, like posting or joining the video campaign, in case someone sees it at the treatment center,” he said. 

Phnom Penh deputy governor Keut Chhe refused to comment on how many positive PCR tests were reported from NagaWorld strikers, claiming these statistics had been published by the Ministry of Health. A spokesperson for the ministry could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The ministry did put out a statement on February 6 about 29 positive cases but did not clarify if the reported results were from a PCR test. 

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