Pagodas Closed for Pchum Ben, Phnom Penh Extends Covid-19 Measures

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Monks wear masks at Phnom Penh’s Wat Svay Pope on September 22, 2021. (Michael Dickison/VOD)

The two-week Pchum Ben festival has been postponed this year two days into the holiday due to large gatherings and the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

In a decision signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and dated Thursday, the government postponed Pchum Ben nationwide from the fourth day — Saturday — till the end of the holiday. The decision comes as Cambodia reported 822 new Covid-19 on Friday, the highest chase count since July 24. There were 22 and 21 reported deaths on Thursday and Friday, respectively, according to Health Ministry data.

The statement said that within two days of Pchum Ben starting, the government have found that large gatherings for ceremonies at pagodas could not ensure the proper implementation of health measures in preventing the transmission of Covid-19, and this could put Cambodia at high risk of large-scale transmission across the country, especially of the new Delta variant.

The decision is also based on the need to control Covid-19 transmission and protect people’s lives and health as Cambodia reopens the schools and as it prepares a plan to fully reopen the country in the coming days.

Provincial authorities should have a process to hand over food and other offerings to monks at pagodas, it added.

The three last days of Pchum Ben on October 5-7, which has been designated a national holiday, will remain a holiday for workers, it said.

In a decision dated Wednesday, City Hall also continued the suspension of businesses that are vulnerable to the spread of Covid-19 and other citywide restrictions until October 7. The restrictions have included gatherings of over 15 people or with alcohol.

Meanwhile, Chhim Sithar, president of NagaWorld union said the Phnom Penh casino reopened its doors last week. All employees are tested for Covid-19 in rotation, and every visitor required to take a test before entering, she said.

The reopening is good for workers who have lost their jobs since the company’s operations were suspended in March, Sithar added.

NagaWorld chief executive Mike Ngai could not be reached. However, a NagaWorld staff member who answered the casino’s inquiries phone number said the casino reopened on September 15 but declined to give further details.

Amid NagaWorld’s closures since March, more than 1,000 employees have been laid off, leading to a dispute with the union that is ongoing.

Regarding the casino’s reopening, Phnom Penh deputy governor Keut Chhe said he had not yet received this information.

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