Provinces Say They Are Prepared as Border Reopens at Midnight

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Provincial officials and frontline workers wait in a tent for 3rd vaccine doses ahead of the border reopening, in a photo posted to the Banteay Meanchey Administration’s Facebook page on August 9, 2021.
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In Oddar Meanchey, authorities have prepared 30 quarantine centers and 10 treatment centers ahead of reopening the border to Thailand at midnight tonight.

“We expect that there will be a large number of people,” said deputy provincial governor Dy Rado.

The country’s land border with Thailand has been closed for two weeks in a bid to cut off the import of Delta Covid-19 cases. Thailand continues to see over 20,000 infections a day as the highly transmissible variant sweeps through the neighboring country.

Imported cases in Cambodia spiked ahead of the border closures, hitting 475 cases on July 26. The numbers have dropped since, with the Health Ministry’s latest daily figure on Thursday down to 81 imported cases.

However, Cambodian migrants in Thailand have spoken of livelihood struggles in the Covid-stricken foreign country, and some have tried to return despite the closed borders — including walking through uncleared minefields, according to one local official.

Rado said new facilities in Oddar Meanchey included two large quarantine centers. Altogether the province can now handle 6,000 people in quarantine, he said.

In Banteay Meanchey’s Thmar Pouk district, the border will reopen to traffic at midnight, but arrivals will head straight to quarantine, said district governor Em Sokha.

There were also Cambodians who have been waiting at the border area, with around 100 more people arriving every day, he said. “We’ll collect them and bring them inside,” he said.

Sokha noted that a reopened border did not mean free travel into the country — limits, especially on smaller corridors, will remain in place, and all arrivals will be strictly checked.

Khun Tharo, program manager at labor rights group Central, said authorities should be prepared for a flood of returnees, especially informal sector workers, as Cambodians were struggling in Thailand.

“In there, they have no options, so they have to return to their homeland,” he said. “There will be thousands of people returning.”

Though the border will reopen, restrictive health measures are continuing across the country. Pailin announced on Thursday that interprovincial traffic will remain banned for another week. Phnom Penh’s curfew is also ongoing.

Active Covid-19 cases, however, have dropped steeply in recent days, down to 3,767 patients as of Thursday, the lowest since April 17. Active cases peaked at 12,013 patients on May 13.

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