‘This Is Not a Joke’: DJ, 38, and Chinese Man, 43, Die of Covid-19

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People walk in and out of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh on March 19, 2020. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)
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Sen Chinda attended a wedding alongside Chean Bunthoeun on March 8, where they met a guest from the Hang Meas TV station who would later test positive for Covid-19.

Chinda, a comedian who performs as Srey Eat, tested positive for the disease just two days later, and Bunthoeun, a 38-year-old DJ, was also found to have coronavirus on March 16.

Bunthoeun, also known as “Mr. Boom,” was first admitted to the Great Duke hotel-turned-quarantine facility in Phnom Penh, but was soon sent to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and put on a ventilator. Doctors found severe damage in his lungs, according to a Health Ministry statement.

He died Thursday morning.

“I was shocked when I heard this news,” Chinda said. “It is too quick that the virus got the lungs. I feel regret and share my condolences for the deceased’s family.”

Chinda recalled that she had fallen ill before finding out she had Covid-19. Half of her body was in pain, her arms and legs hurt, her eyes burned, her lips were dry and she was vomiting, she said.

Chinda said on Thursday that she wasn’t sure exactly who they contracted Covid-19 from, but the disease has been circulating among several popular singers and television personalities.

A Hang Meas star, and a director and composer, as well as singer Vy Dyneth, whose mother died of Covid-19 last week, were among those infected, said Hang Meas deputy director-general Meas Rithy. The 62-year-old mother of another comedian, Srey Pin, also died of Covid-19 on Tuesday, according to a post on Pin’s Facebook page.

Rithy said one of the station’s presenters is suspected of being the first to contract Covid-19 at the end of February while shooting a public service announcement about preventing the disease’s spread. The presenter had later done other promotions with the station’s stars before testing positive on March 6, Rithy said.

Pekmi, the leader of Chinda’s comedy troupe, said Bunthoeun’s death was a wake-up call.

“Every day I am very concerned for myself because like our brothers and sisters have seen, this is not a joke. Before [we] believed that [only] old people can die, but this is very concerning since Mr. Boom was still young but he died. So we are all very worried,” Pekmi said.

Bunthoeun had sometimes played music at comedy events and occasionally filled in as a comedian. Not long before his death, Bunthoeun had posted online that he was getting better, Pekmi added.

“I was very happy when I saw him posting a video of exercising, that he felt a little better … and I was shocked to receive this information,” he said.

According to the Health Ministry, the conditions of both of Bunthoeun’s lungs had deteriorated until his death around 7:35 a.m.

The second death on Thursday was a 43-year-old Chinese man with a registered address at the Yong Yuan casino in Sampov Puon commune in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district, the ministry said.

The man tested positive on March 11 and was admitted to Kandal’s Chey Chumneas Hospital. On March 18, complaining of exhaustion, the man was found to be struggling to breathe and was sent to the Khmer-Soviet hospital, according to the ministry.

Both his lungs were damaged and weak, and the man was put on a ventilator for a week. He died around 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, the ministry said.

Amid the country’s worst outbreak to date, Cambodia has now recorded nine deaths of Covid-19 patients, seven of which have been attributed to the disease.

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