Provinces Scramble to House Covid-19 Patients, Lock Down Contacts

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Jin Bei casino in Sihanoukville (Vann Vichar/VOD)

Hundreds of people are in lockdown in a casino in Kandal province and a hotel complex in Sihanoukville as provincial authorities are preparing more treatment and quarantine centers amid the country’s largest Covid-19 outbreak to date.

Active Covid-19 cases have surged to 221 since a local cluster emerged over the weekend, linked to Chinese women who left quarantine at Phnom Penh’s Sokha Hotel.

On Wednesday, Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said new patients were being taken to Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces as Phnom Penh hospitals were already filling up.

In Kampong Speu, governor Vei Samnang said provincial authorities were preparing for an influx at two levels: quarantine and treatment.

They had 284 beds in 64 rooms for quarantine at several high schools around the province, and 138 beds in 34 rooms for treatment at the provincial hospital, three district hospitals and the Cambodia-Korea Rural Development Center, he said.

In an emergency, 100 more beds could be set up and people could camp in the spacious Korean center grounds, both for quarantine and treatment, Samnang said.

“This location is huge, and it is far from urban areas, and the weather is also good,” the governor said.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn said the Chey Chumneas hospital in Takhmao city currently had 20 Covid-19 patients, 19 of them Chinese and one Vietnamese.

One suspected Covid-19 contact, however, had visited a casino in the province, leading to the whole complex being locked down with hundreds of people inside, Sophorn said.

“We just took their samples and quarantined them,” he said.

Sophorn said the province’s capacity for treating Covid-19 patients was at about 20 beds currently, but 90 total beds could be made available and it was working on further expansions.

“Now we are constructing toilets gradually and doing small repairs on a big old building,” he said. “We are expanding the location and clearing it up and installing water and electricity and CCTV cameras, and organizing sanitation for the rooms.”

He added that the province already had several quarantine centers across 11 districts.

In Preah Sihanouk, deputy provincial governor Kong Vitanak said one of Jin Bei hotel’s properties in Sihanoukville had been cordoned off with all guests and staff required to quarantine in place.

He said 460 people were inside, and all of their samples had been collected for Covid-19 testing.

Most were Cambodian staff members, with about 45 foreign guests from China, Nepal and Malaysia among them, he said.

The lockdown was related to two Chinese women who worked and stayed at a Jin Bei casino testing positive for Covid-19, Vitanak said.

“We’ve targeted the places and other locations that are involved with Jin Bei,” he said. “We’re not letting them leave until their testing is complete and they have been in isolation for 14 days.”

Vitanak said that in terms of treatment, the provincial hospital might be able to handle up to 100 people, but provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum said up to 10 locations, including hotels, could be made available for treatment to boost Preah Sihanouk’s capacity.

The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration said in a statement later Thursday evening that it had closed six locations due to suspected Covid-19 exposure, including three Jin Bei hotel and casino venues.

Health officials had taken samples from 1,562 people for testing.

The provincial administration added that 19 other businesses had voluntarily shut as a precaution and quarantined people inside. The sites included 10 hotels, six casinos, a restaurant, a resort and one other venue.

The authorities also advised against traveling between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh.

Since Covid-19’s emergence last year, 698 people in Cambodia have tested positive for Covid-19, with 477 of them recovered and no official deaths.

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