Workers Returned From Thailand Complain of Difficulties in Quarantine

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Quarantine tents set up near the Thai border in Battambang province, in a photo supplied by the provincial administration.
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Mosquitoes, leaking roofs and no toilets — amid a surge of returnees from Covid-19-stricken Thailand, quarantine centers along the border in Oddar Meanchey province are facing a shortage of facilities, migrants and the provincial administration say.

Thailand reported more than 8,000 Covid-19 cases in one day on Tuesday, as infections are at record levels. The country reintroduced lockdowns in Bangkok, with Cambodian migrants facing the potential loss of incomes.

In Cambodia, the number of imported Covid-19 cases are on the rise. On Tuesday, 217 of 830 newly announced cases were imported, or 26 percent.

Bun Vibol, a migrant worker, said on Monday that he and about 200 others who had recently returned from Thailand through the O’Smach border checkpoint were required by authorities to conduct quarantine in Samraong city.

The 42-year-old man said that at the time of the quarantine, the authorities had not prepared anything but a tent and 1.5 liters of pure drinking water for daily use.

Vibol, who has been a factory worker in Bangkok for about 10 years, said that in addition to the shortages, officials appeared scared to get near them. “They detest us strongly,” he said.

Another worker from Thailand, Sokhorn, originally from Siem Reap province, said there was no medicine or toilets where she was in quarantine, while some other places that had bathrooms were dirty and unhygienic.

She said she had to sleep without a mosquito net, and when it rained they had to get up because the tarp roof leaked.

Sokhorn said the returnees were more worried about getting malaria or dengue than Covid-19.

“The biggest problem is that mosquitoes bite every night because we do not have mosquito nets. We, from Thailand, also do not have [our own] mosquito nets because some people came with nothing, just came with nothing,” Sokhorn said. “I burn mosquito incense, but it still does not quell the mosquitoes because the mosquitoes are like bees.”

Oddar Meanchey deputy governor Lim Sokto acknowledged shortages at the quarantine centers, and said provincial authorities were submitting a request to a national Covid-19 committee for equipment. He added that it was not yet clear what the response would be.

“The use [of equipment] in some schools is also lacking,” Sokto said.

According to Sokto, about 400 workers had returned from Thailand through the O’Smach border checkpoint as of Monday.

Provincial health director Khlok Huot could not be reached.

Moeun Tola, director of labor rights group Central, said the current influx of returnees of Thailand could be beyond authorities’ expectations.

Nevertheless, any shortage of bathrooms or mosquito nets at the Cambodian quarantine centers created a risk for non-Covid diseases, Tola said.

“It is important that the center has proper accommodations and proper medical facilities. And another thing, the hygiene in toilets or bathrooms is very important,” he said.

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