Cambodia finds cases of UK variant as community Covid cluster spreads

Bangkok Desk, Feb 23 (efe-epa).- Cambodia announced it has detected three cases of the more contagious United Kingdom Covid-19 variant among its new infections on Tuesday, which comes amid efforts to control a spreading community cluster that has risen to almost 100 cases in three days.

The Ministry of Health announced 25 new cases Tuesday, including 23 in the community, bringing the total local cluster cases to 99 since Saturday. Until then, the last local infection was recorded in November.

The new outbreak is a setback for the country, which has recorded a total of 593 cases and no deaths since the pandemic began last year, and where life continued near normally.

About 23 locations, including entertainment venues, hotels and apartments believed to be related to the cluster had been temporary closed down, and on Tuesday schools, museums, cinemas and theaters in the capital Phnom Penh and in Kandal province were also ordered closed for two weeks.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked people not to visit the capital unless it is an emergency and told Phnom Penh residents to stay home where possible. He also urged taxi and tuk-tuk drivers to get tested at the National Olympic Stadium.

The government on Tuesday also announced it would take legal action against anyone failing to comply with health ministry measures to control the epidemic, including those who do not cooperate in providing information and those fleeing from quarantine. Foreigners could face deportation.

In a televised speech on Saturday, Hun Sen announced the country’s third and worst outbreak after 32 people tested positive for Covid-19 in just over 10 hours.

The source of the outbreak was allegedly traced to four quarantined Chinese women who apparently bribed two security guards to escape the hotel and then spent time in several condominiums, local media reported.

Most of the cases linked to the new outbreak are Chinese nationals, and the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh on Saturday issued a notice to its citizens to comply with the country’s Covid control rules.

“Recently, a few Chinese citizens who came to Cambodia illegally left quarantine hotels and went out; a few Chinese citizens in Cambodia deliberately hid after learning that the test result was positive, and escaped isolation treatment,” it said, adding that the “actions seriously violated the Cambodian government’s relevant epidemic prevention regulations” and local laws.

“Chinese citizens in Cambodia must strictly abide by the Cambodian government’s epidemic prevention regulations, and actively cooperate with the Cambodian health authorities in relevant epidemic prevention work,” it said.

There is concern that a large number of cases could quickly overwhelm Cambodia’s fragile health system.

Earlier this month the country began a rollout of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by its close ally, China. EFE-EPA


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