Ratanakiri Outbreak Keeps Growing, Test Availability Still a Concern

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The Ratanakiri Provincial Health Department in Banlung city on March 13, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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The northeastern province of Ratanakiri is reporting around 30 to 40 cases of Covid-19 a day, said a local official, resulting in close to 250 cases this week. 

Ratanakiri, which reported its first case in May 2021, has seen a spike in cases since last week, after reporting 104 new cases on June 19. Since then, the provincial government has reported 248 this week, and 319 total cases since May.

On Thursday, the provincial government reported 63 new cases in the province and one death in its capital, Banlung city. Deputy governor Nhem Sam Oeun said health officials were conducting 500 to 600 tests a day but the province was fast running out of rapid detection tests.

“We provide Covid-19 tests to people depending on how many rapid tests we can get from the Ministry of Health,” Sam Oeun said. “On the 24th, we received 1,500 rapids. Now, we still have half of them remaining.”

The province has enforced a curfew, with officials worried about the spread of the disease which likely originated in a Banlung market. Sam Oeun said some areas around the market had been placed under lockdown but the market was still open.

“Some businesses in the market have voluntarily closed because of the increasing number of cases and they are scared of the virus,” the deputy governor said.

Even before the recent outbreak, indigenous villagers in the province were taking preemptive precautions against the viral outbreak, blocking access to their villages or preventing residents from walking outside their homes.

Yeak Loam, a community tourism location in the province, stopped accepting tourists in March after Cambodia’s national case tally spiked in late March and early April. But the lack of tourists means community members have lost incomes.

“We did not get any profits since we closed in March. The community depends on selling tickets, as [parking charges] for motorcycles and cars of the tourists,” said Nhan Nea, a community representative at Yeak Loam.

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