Ministry to Add Covid-19 Testing Labs as Foreign Arrivals Increase

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A motorbike driver waits for customers outside the Health Ministry in Phnom Penh on March 19, 2020. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

The Health Ministry on Friday said it would establish three new laboratories that can test samples for Covid-19 as international arrivals to Cambodia have risen to up to 900 people per day following a drastic drop in tourist entries amid the global pandemic.

Secretary of State Youk Sambath told reporters at a press conference that the ministry is ordering equipment to turn three facilities, in Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampong Cham provinces, into Covid-19 testing centers, using an unspecified amount of the $20 million credit provided by the World Bank in April.

Sambath said the first laboratory would open in Siem Reap “soon,” without specifying, and the Battambang and Kampong Cham centers would follow. 

“We will start to extend the laboratory to be capable [and have] enough technical ability to test for Covid-19 in Siem Reap,” Sambath said. “When we have another [laboratory] location in Siem Reap, we can better share the load of testing.”

The nation’s two current designated testing laboratories are capable of processing about 600 samples per day, officials have said. Since January, Cambodia has counted 141 positive cases, with 10 active cases as of Friday. No coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the country.

Sambath said the ministry is also planning to add up to 10 hotels to its available quarantine centers. Currently, the ministry has four Covid-19 quarantine facilities in Phnom Penh, at Chompu Wan school, Chak Angre Health Center, Pochentong Air Base and Pochentong Medical Center.

The government’s anti-Covid-19 committee is also discussing whether it would be possible to set up rapid testing that could deliver results in 30 minutes, she said. Covid-19 test results usually take about 24 hours to process, the ministry has said.

“We will try our best to control the situation for all arrivals to Cambodia in order to prevent the pandemic in the community,” Sambath said. 

Some 16,129 travelers had arrived through Cambodia’s airports in about one and a half months, between May 20 — when a ban on travelers from six countries was lifted — and Thursday, the official said. The Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh had tested more than 20,000 people and the National Institute of Health tested more than 10,000 people, she added.

The Health Ministry ordered in early June that foreign travelers must prove they have health insurance worth at least $50,000 and put down a $3,000 deposit to cover costs of testing, treatment and quarantine fees, which could add to more than $1,000. 

International arrivals are required to have a health certificate showing they had tested negative for Covid-19 before departing for Cambodia. New arrivals who test negative upon entering the country are still required to self-isolate at home or in one of the Health Ministry’s quarantine centers, while those who test positive or were aboard the same airplane as a positive patient will need to quarantine for 14 days at a government-designated site.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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