Cambodia's Hun Sen says country in big danger from Covid-19 surge


Police block motorists from passing a checkpoint due to lockdown restrictions introduced to try to halt a surge in cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Phnom Penh on April 17, 2021. - AFP

Phnom Penh, April 18, 2021 (AFP): Spiraling Covid-19 cases have put Cambodia "on the brink of death", its strongman premier Hun Sen has warned, as the country imposed lockdowns in the capital Phnom Penh and a nearby city.

The South-East Asian kingdom has seen Covid-19 cases surge since February, when an outbreak was first detected among its Chinese expatriate community.

Authorities said last week that hospitals in Phnom Penh were running out of beds and that they had transformed schools and wedding party halls into treatment centres, while Hun Sen threatened quarantine-breakers with jail time.

Phnom Penh and adjacent city Ta Khmau were Wednesday night placed under lockdown for two weeks to curb the spread, effectively halting the movement of more than two million people.

"Please my people -- join your efforts to end this dangerous event," pled premier Hun Sen in a recorded address aired on state-run television late Wednesday night.

"We are on the brink of death already," he said. "If we don't join hands together, we will head to real death."

Phnom Penh and Ta Khmau residents are now barred from leaving their homes for two weeks except to go to the hospital or to buy medicine, while only two household members will be allowed out to buy food.

On Thursday (April 15) morning, police blocked motorists from passing a checkpoint set up at the border between the two cities, with residents showing their ID cards hoping to pass through.

Blockades were also erected around the major Norodom Boulevard around the iconic Independence Monument to prevent people from travelling.

While the kingdom has seen improvements in its healthcare in the past decade, its infrastructure -- especially in rural areas -- is still poor, with a lack of services and qualified doctors.

Inequality also plagues the system, with reports of lower income families being turned away from hospitals.



Before the community outbreak was detected in February, Cambodia's Covid-19 toll was comparatively lower than its regional neighbours -- but experts had chalked it up to the lack of widespread testing.

Cambodia on Saturday night registered 291 new Covid-19 cases and one more death in the last 24 hours, the country's Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement.

The new cases included 290 local cases, namely 228 in capital Phnom Penh, 26 in Preah Sihanouk province, 14 in Kandal province, 12 in Takeo province, eight in Svay Rieng province and two in Prey Veng province, and one imported case, the statement said.

The imported case was detected on a 24-year-old French woman traveling to the kingdom on April 3 from Switzerland via a connecting flight in Singapore, the statement said, adding that she was confirmed to have the virus in her second test on the 13th day of quarantine.

The Southeast Asian country has reported a total of 5,771 confirmed Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 39 deaths, the MoH said, adding that there are currently 3,311 active cases in the kingdom.

Cambodia began an anti-Covid-19 inoculation drive on Feb 10. As of Friday, some 1.24 million out of the country's 16 million population had been vaccinated against the virus, showed a government report. - AFP
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Cambodia , Hun Sen , Worried , Covid-19 , Cases , Spiralling , Measures , Tough

   

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