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Pagodas must properly prepare for Pchum Ben ceremonies amid pandemic

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Scenes like these from last year’s festival will not be permitted due to measures to combat the spread of coronavirus. This year, people have been instructed to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres to avoid transmission. KT/Khem Sovannara

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has instructed provincial governors and relevant officials to implement COVID-19 transmission prevention measures in pagodas across the country in preparation of the Pchum Ben festivities.

The minister’s statement released yesterday said that pagodas must be prepared for the festival – which will be held between September 3 and 18 – in order to protect people against the virus, with security being a top priority to avoid overcrowding.

He said that COVID-19 is still a major threat to the country and despite low infection rates in Cambodia, measures are still vital to ensuring no outbreaks occur during the festivities.

The statement said that local authorities should check all attendees who enter pagodas, making sure they have their temperatures checked, are practicing social distancing, wearing masks and have also washed their hands. It also added that anyone bringing food must ensure it is cooked properly.

“Keeping a social distance of 1.5 metres between people and monks is essential. All monks within the pagoda must also wear masks throughout the duration of the food offerings,” he said.

He also asked people to keep themselves safe by avoiding big gatherings and choosing safe travel routes, such as by visiting different pagodas or travelling via less travelled roads.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday also called on people to protect themselves during the Pchum Ben ceremonies via a Facebook post.

“The Dak Ben and Pchum Ben ceremonies are set to arrive shortly and I am urging people to take care of their health, follow the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health and continue to practice transmission prevention measures,” he said.

Supreme Patriarch of the Mohanikaya sect of the Cambodia Monk Committee Non Nget last week also instructed pagodas to prepare coronavirus prevention measures during Pchum Ben ceremonies.

He said that the event usually welcomes lots of people to pagodas and therefore virus protection measures will be very important to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.

“Before entering any pagoda, temperature checks, mask wearing and the relevant health measures must be adhered too in order to enter,” he said.

Buddihist Them Samnag said that during the ceremonies this year, the country must be careful.

“Me and my family will still enjoy Pchum Ben ceremonies and visit a pagoda to pray and give food, however, we will strictly follow the Ministry of Health measures to protect ourselves,” he said.

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