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US Embassy treating official with C-19

Khann Chanvirak / Khmer Times Share:
A file photo of foreigners with COVID-19 being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

The US Embassy is treating one of its senior officials who contracted COVID-19 (C-19) on Wednesday within its premises and not at any Cambodian facility.

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The Ministry of Health yesterday reported that the American man tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 234. It also reported eight new recoveries.

A statement from the Ministry of Health said the patient is a senior US Embassy official who flew from the United States and arrived in Phnom Penh on July 15.

After testing negative on arrival, he tested positive for the virus on the 13th day of his 14-day quarantine.

The statement also said seven Cambodians and an American woman recovered yesterday after testing negative for COVID-19 twice.

The Cambodians who  had recovered are five men, aged between 23 and 31, who returned from Saudi Arabia on July 16, a 34-year-old Cambodian man and a five-year-old Cambodian boy, both of whom came from the US.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said yesterday the embassy is treating its official on its premises just as like it does for its officials who test positive for the virus.

Speaking during the launch of the “Message and Location Management System for receiving information and data of citizens about COVID-19” at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, yesterday, Vandine said there had been three cases of infected US officials and one of them, an American woman, recovered on Wednesday.

“As the US officials have their rights of privilege and immunity, they were taken care of by the US Embassy Healthcare Center,” Vandine said.

“Although the Minister of Health has demanded that patients should receive medical treatment at the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital, the US Embassy remains in charge of their US patients,” she added.

Arend Zwartjes, a US embassy spokesman, told Khmer Times via the email yesterday that US health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, continue to sustain longstanding partnerships with Cambodian counterparts to help the Kingdom respond to the global pandemic, including programmes to build surveillance and contact tracing capacities.

He said the US Embassy abides by all Cambodian government requirements for the arrival, testing and quarantine of all diplomatic personnel and their family members.

Zwartjes said the Embassy is cooperating closely with the Ministry of Health and other authorities to prevent further infections.

“We can confirm that a member of the US Embassy community in Phnom Penh tested positive for COVID-19 on July 28. This individual had received a negative COVID-19 test just prior to departing the United States before arrival in Cambodia,” he said. “In full accordance with the Cambodian Ministry of Health requirements, the individual was isolated upon arrival and again tested negative.”

Zwartjes added the US Embassy immediately notified the Ministry of Health when the additional test during isolation was confirmed as positive.

Vandine also said yesterday that some people now are being careless about measures to prevent COVID-19, because they think that virus cases are imported ones which the Health Ministry will control.

“If people still have this view, we will be at high risk because they forget to prevent the virus and forget to protect themselves. As we have seen, there has recently been an outbreak of the virus in Vietnam, which we should be concerned about, because Vietnam has borders with Cambodia,” she said.

Vandine said although recent cases were imported and the Ministry of Health was in control, if something happened, like in the case of a woman who ran away from a quarantine centre, it would be a big problem.

The 36-year-old Cambodian-American woman Le Vira Rose, who had fled the facility where she was under 14-day quarantine, yesterday tested negative for COVID-19 after being re-examined and re-quarantined. She was discharged from the quarantine facility.

She arrived in Cambodia on July 15 on the same flight as two American diplomats who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in the Kingdom.

Vira Rose and the other 88 passengers who were not carrying the coronavirus went into mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel in Phnom Penh. However, she escaped from her room around midnight on July 18, after sneaking into the officials’ office to take her passport back.

However, later that evening, the authorities found her in a guesthouse in Kampong Cham city and put her into quarantine again.

Vandine also said yesterday that so far, the ministry is finding it difficult to assess and conclude on the nature of the virus and its transmission, adding that even the WHO has not been able to respond to the nature and transmission of COVID-19.

“As we have seen with couples living together sometimes, the husband tests positive for the virus, but the wife is negative. Some patients found the virus in the first test, some in the second and some in the third test,” she said.

Phnom Penh tour guide Savy Arina said yesterday he still protects himself, especially when out of the house. However, he said he is less worried about COVID-19 because there is no outbreak in the community.

“In my opinion, the infected people are all repatriated from abroad, but there is no transmission from one person to another in the country,” he said.

Minh Rika, an accountant at a private company in Phnom Penh, said yesterday she was still worried and would continue to take precautionary measures. However, she noted that other people seem less concerned about COVID-19.

“I see other people walking around casually, not even wearing masks, not to mention keeping a distance, especially in the market,” she said.

Cambodia has a total of 234 COVID-19 cases. Of them, 162 have recovered.

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