Prisons Head, 5 Relatives Test Positive for Covid-19, Aeon Mall Closed

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Aeon Mall I in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district in 2015 (Wikimedia Commons)

The country’s prisons director, his wife and four of their family members have tested positive for Covid-19 with the source of their infection unknown, and Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall I has been temporarily closed following a visit by the director’s wife, the Health Ministry said Sunday morning.

A private international school campus in the capital was also announced closed for two weeks.

The Health Ministry said the 56-year-old woman had cold symptoms for three days and went to Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on Saturday for a checkup. She was then found to have Covid-19.

She lives in both Siem Reap city’s Chreav commune and Phnom Penh’s Borey Peng Huoth, the ministry said.

The other family members who tested positive include prisons director Chhem Savuth, a woman, two men and a 12-year-old boy living in the same house, according to the ministry. All six have been admitted to the Khmer-Soviet hospital.

Aeon Mall in Chamkarmon district would be closed for two to three days while tracing contacts, while quarantine centers in the provinces of Siem Reap, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri and Banteay Meanchey are prepared to take in suspected contacts of the woman and five relatives.

Testing stations have been set up at Phnom Penh’s Interior Ministry, Aeon Mall and Prey Sar prison, and the ministry urged anyone who had contact with the family members to be tested. Siem Reap city’s teachers school is also being made available as a testing station, it added.

“This time is a very important stage for all people to unite together to implement these important health measures of the Ministry of Health in order to prevent community transmission on a large scale and for the people to continue their normal living in a new way,” the ministry said.

The ministry later said the Khmer-Soviet hospital would also be made available for Covid-19 testing, and Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine told reporters that the capital’s Phnom Penh Hotel has also been closed for two days while contact tracing and testing is underway after Savuth’s wife used the gym facilities there.

Prime Minister Hun Sen published a message on state-aligned Fresh News that Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Justice Minister Keut Rith and Bin Chhin, the minister in charge of the cabinet, had recently met with Savuth and would need to go into quarantine.

Hun Sen added that there would not be a general order to close schools in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at this time.

“We don’t know from whom she got infected with the virus,” Health Ministry spokesperson Ly Sovann said of the director’s wife, according to a report by state news agency AKP late Saturday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to the public not to panic, but to increase attention to protect themselves from Covid-19 by following Health Ministry safety guidelines, AKP said.

The Education Ministry also said on Sunday that it was closing the American Intercon School’s Chak Angre campus in Phnom Penh for two weeks in order to avoid possible coronavirus transmission in the school and community.

The Health Ministry also said there was one new imported case of Covid-19 and two recoveries.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. with comment from Hun Sen and Or Vandine.

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