Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered border authorities to send new arrivals coming in through land borders straight to their home provinces to quarantine if they aren’t showing symptoms, as one border province said it was struggling to feed the thousands of people in quarantine while returnees increased.
Meanwhile, a Sokha Hotel security guard who allegedly helped four Chinese women leave quarantine, two of whom later tested positive for Covid-19, was sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday morning, police said.
In an audio message issued over the weekend, Hun Sen said instead of quarantining at the border, new arrivals should be transported on army trucks to their destinations as long as they don’t have a fever.
He said there was a sharp increase in the number of people returning to the country, making it difficult to quarantine them all at the border.
“The situation along the border is difficult because there are more people coming to get quarantined, more than are leaving quarantine,” Hun Sen said.
Ly Sary, spokesperson for the Banteay Meanchey provincial administration, said the province currently had 13 quarantine centers with more than 5,000 people in them.
The number of workers returning from Thailand had increased from 300 to 600 per day in recent days, and provincial authorities expected the number to rise further as Khmer New Year next month approached, Sary said.
“[A] problem is preparing food and water for them,” Sary said, adding that provincial authorities were ready to implement the new regime of sending people from the border straight to their destinations.
Representatives in Oddar Meanchey and Battambang provinces, also along the Thai border, have previously said they were setting up tents to house new arrivals as they ran out of space in quarantine centers.
In Phnom Penh, National Police central security department deputy director Seang Thearith said 38-year-old Ren Sotheara, deputy chief of security at the Sokha Hotel, was sent to the municipal court on suspicion of a deliberate violation of on-site administration under the Disaster Management Law. The charge carries a potential jail term of one month to one year.
Thearith did not say what had happened to the second hotel guard who was also in quarantine for two weeks alongside Sotheara and suspected of being a part of allowing the Chinese women to leave.
He said only that Sotheara had been sent to court because he was the alleged mastermind behind the escape of the women, who have been linked to the “February 20” cluster, Cambodia’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak to date.
In Siem Reap province, governor Tea Seiha said a woman meant to be in self-quarantine in Preah Sihanouk had traveled to Siem Reap with her husband and her uncle.
Once in Siem Reap, she had gone out to eat pho, leading to the restaurant’s owner and waiters also being tested for Covid-19 and asked to go into isolation. So far all tests have been negative, he said.
But the woman was “committed to quarantining in Siem Reap and she had no intention to escape,” Seiha said.
“She has registered in our applications so that we can track her down,” he added.