School Year Canceled for Public Schools; Sports, Gatherings Discouraged

3 min read
A student from Bamboo International School in Phnom Penh heads home after his first day at school since Covid-19 closures in March, on October 1, 2020. (Michael Dickison/VOD)

The Education Ministry has announced the school year is called off for public schools amid the emergence of a new cluster of coronavirus cases over the weekend.

It later also called for sporting events to be postponed, while Phnom Penh City Hall issued a statement to avoid gatherings of over 20 people.

In a statement, the ministry told all municipal and provincial education departments to end the school year after Monday, with plans for the new school year to start on January 11.

Grade 9 students will still have their exams on Monday, while grade 12 will still go ahead with theirs on December 21, said the statement, issued late Sunday.

In a separate statement the ministry said private schools must take their studies online for two weeks — with the exception of grade 12 students, who can be allowed to study for their exams at school.

However, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced later, in an audio clip posted to Facebook on Monday afternoon, that all grade 12 students would also no longer be allowed to attend classes at school for two weeks. Professional training courses will also need to be postponed, he said.

The announcements came amid the emergence of a cluster of Covid-19 cases over the weekend, when the wife of the country’s prisons director tested positive on Saturday after suffering cold symptoms for three days.

Fourteen total people have so far tested positive in the cluster, with authorities saying the source of the infections is still unknown.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for road renovations in Siem Reap province on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the next two weeks would be critical for Cambodia as it tries to stay in control of the virus.

The country has had just over 300 cases of Covid-19 this year, with no official deaths, even as the disease has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide and caused widespread and recurrent lockdowns in many countries.

“Whether we can control it or not — it is within these upcoming 15 days,” Hun Sen said. “The upcoming 15 days will depend solely on our hard work, both the state and the people.”

Municipal and provincial authorities will have the power to shut down businesses if they suspect there has been Covid-19 transmission, he said.

“This is a measure that needs to be taken immediately,” Hun Sen said.

Any poor families who are forced to quarantine will be provided financial support of 20,000 riel per day, the prime minister added.

The Culture Ministry on Monday also announced the immediate closure of museums and cinemas throughout the country for two weeks, according to state news agency AKP.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports said later Monday that sports and group exercise should be postponed. City Hall called on restaurants and shops to check the temperatures of arriving customers, and said city residents should avoid gatherings of more than 20 people.

Municipal and district departments will postpone meetings for two weeks, it added.

Updated at 3:25 p.m. with Hun Sen’s comments about grade 12 students.

Updated at 6 p.m. with further notices from the Education Ministry and Phnom Penh City Hall.

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