Travel Banned, Masks Mandatory in Preah Sihanouk Amid Outbreak

3 min read
Near empty streets in Sihanoukville on March 4, 2021 as the Preah Sihanouk provincial administration announced a ban on travel in and out of the province following a rise in Covid-19 cases. (Preah Sihanouk provincial administration’s Facebook page)

Preah Sihanouk suspended transport in and out of the province, while authorities on Thursday extended school closures, and Prime Minister Hun Sen said the “February 20” Covid-19 outbreak could last past Khmer New Year next month.

Hun Sen also provided some details on the country’s public vaccination campaign, saying the newly arrived, WHO-approved AstraZeneca vaccine would be reserved for international NGO workers, foreign embassy staff and Cambodians 60 and older, while the Sinopharm vaccine will be made available to Cambodians 59 and younger and other foreign nationals.

The majority of vaccine doses have so far been given to soldiers.

The country currently has 425 active Covid-19 cases since the emergence of the latest cluster nearly two weeks ago, and focused in Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk.

In a statement on Thursday, the Preah Sihanouk provincial administration said taxis, buses and “all means of passenger transportation in and out of Preah Sihanouk” were suspended until further notice.

Goods transport would continue, but trucks can carry only at most two people, and people should avoid unnecessary gatherings, it said.

“Please, all people keep calm at home,” it said. “If it is necessary to go out, one must wear a mask.”

The province has 80 active cases, according to Health Ministry figures.

Ongoing school closures in Preah Sihanouk as well as Kandal province and Phnom Penh were also extended on Thursday, with the Education Ministry announcing public and private schools must stay closed until “the end of the February 20 community event.”

Hun Sen said after receiving an AstraZeneca shot in the morning that the latest Covid-19 outbreak was still ongoing as pressure again rises with the expected return of migrant workers around the Khmer New Year holidays in the middle of next month.

“We are not sure yet whether the February 20 community event will end before New Year or not. This is the problem that we are worried about more as people keep entering Cambodia from Thailand,” Hun Sen said.

The premier said Cambodia had received 600,000 doses of Sinopharm already, and another 400,000 should arrive before the Khmer New Year. The country also received 324,000 doses of AstraZeneca this week, and should receive 1 million total in the first half of the year, he said.

He added that Cambodia had so far vaccinated 125,668 people, including 84,758 soldiers and police officers, and both Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines had been sent to Preah Sihanouk province this morning.

Hun Sen said priority would be given to diplomats, U.N. workers and other foreign NGO staff, who would receive the AstraZeneca vaccine alongside Cambodians 60 and older. Cambodians 59 and younger would get the Sinopharm vaccine, and other foreign nationals would receive vaccines the same as Cambodians, he said.

“It is not time to blame each other. It is time to cooperate to solve issues together,” Hun Sen said.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday said people could register for vaccines on cambodia-vaccine.gov.kh or by downloading the KhmerVacc mobile app.

In a statement, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance said several media outlets were denied entry to Hun Sen’s press conference in the morning, including VOD, Reuters, VOA, Cambonomist, Thmey Thmey and CamboJA, while government-affiliated outlets such as Fresh News, TVK, Bayon TV and CNC TV were allowed in.

“This undermines the right of journalists to access information,” the statement said. It also “shows inequalities between journalists from different media institutions.”

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