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Controls in place: Gov’t orders temporary closures to contain C-19 community transmission

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Grade 9 students leave after completing their first day of exams in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Amid the COVID-19 community transmission in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday issued an urgent order prohibiting the gathering of more than 20 people in the capital and Siem Reap province as court trials have been suspended and cinemas, museums, theatres and all schools were closed to contain the spread.

The Ministry of Health yesterday registered eight new cases of COVID-19 community infection in Phnom Penh, raising the total number to 323.

In his voice message released yesterday afternoon, Mr Hun Sen said the decision was made based on advice from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.

“We are required to take additional measures for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province. Please postpone all big gatherings, including wedding parties for 15 days from today [Monday],” he said, adding that the measures will be implemented until December 15.

“Let there be widespread dissemination by the media. I request understanding from our people,” he added.

Mr Hun Sen said for any gatherings of fewer than 20, people must practice social distancing.

He also said while there is no ban on travelling, people should reduce public outings for 15 days.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday announced that the court will not conduct any trial or hearing from yesterday until December 15 to contain the COVID-19 transmission in the community.

The decision was made after PJ Prison, Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 1 and Correctional Center 2 summited a request to the court to suspend all hearings for two weeks as some prison officials are under quarantine due to the community transmission.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said yesterday that other provincial prisons could implement similar measures as the court in the capital.

Asked if the measures would affect the Justice Ministry’s ongoing campaign to resolve a backlog of nearly 40,000 court cases across the country, Malin said the impact is unavoidable.

“Now, the safety of the community and people are the priority,” Malin said. “Our campaign will continue, but we need to be flexible to ensure the mechanism of providing legal justice and ensuring security.”

Since the ministry launched the campaign in May until mid-October, the courts have cleared a backlog of nearly 30,000 criminal court cases within 150 days across five provinces.

Additionally, Mr Hun Sen also ordered the Ministry of Education to end the 2019-2020 academic year as well as temporarily suspend classes for students in Grade 12, who are preparing for the upcoming national exam.

Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron yesterday instructed all public schools across the country to end the 2019-2020 academic year immediately.

However, the lower secondary school Grade 9 exam took place as scheduled yesterday and the high school Grade 12 one will be held on December 21.

Naron yesterday also issued a separate notice postponing all workshops or any meetings which involve more than 20 education officials for 15 days.

He noted that all public and private higher education institutions must temporarily close for 15 days and sports events must be suspended.

All the government’s measures have been taken after Cambodia’s first-ever community transmission of COVID-19 occurred after an outbreak involving the family of a senior official at the Ministry of Interior.

This is the third closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools only reopened on November 23 after the “November 3 incident” which arose after the visit of the Hungarian Foreign Minister.

The Ministry of Labour yesterday announced the temporary closure of all public and private Technical and Vocational Education Institutions across the country until December 15.

“The institutions can continue the training process online,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts yesterday announced that all cinemas, museums and theatres in Cambodia are to be closed immediately for two weeks from yesterday.

Prisoners arrive for cases at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court several months ago. The court has temporarily suspended hearings until December 15. KT/Pann Rachana

A ministry notice said the decision to close them was made “because of the impact of the global spread of COVID-19 and to avoid community outbreaks”.

The ministry also informed all provincial culture departments, tour guide associations, travel agencies as well as national and international tour companies to take heed of the ministry’s notice.

The move comes after the temporary closure of Aeon 1 Mall, Phnom Penh Hotel, the American Intercon School, Chak Angre branch, and the next door Aii Language Center, for two weeks.

The closures come after the son of the Interior Ministry official, who studies at AIS, tested positive for COVID-19.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who is also under 14-day quarantine, yesterday ordered the suspension of work at the ministry’s General Department of Prisons after Lieutenant General Chhem Savuth tested positive.

In a recent interview with reporters, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said all foreign and Cambodian passengers arriving in the Kingdom are no longer allowed to conduct self-quarantine at home, saying all passengers are to conduct a 14-day quarantine at the ministry’s designated centres.

“Those who enter the Kingdom through the airports now must be placed in 14-day quarantine,” he said.

He said in the past any air passenger who tested negative for the virus being screened upon arrival was allowed to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“But now they are no longer allowed to do so. Whether they are infected with COVID-19 on the plane or not, it is absolutely necessary for them to conduct a 14-day quarantine at the state-run centres. So we must be even more careful,” Bun Heng said.

Additionally, speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction of 38 roads in Siem Reap province yesterday, Mr Hun Sen called on all Cambodians to join with the government to fight the pandemic.

“Now is not the time to blame each other and not the time to blame this or that person, it is time for us to unite to fight COVID-19,” he said in response to some people blaming the government over the community transmission.




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