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Mass contact tracing after ‘November 28 community incident’

Ry Sochan / Khmer Times Share:
People wait for samples to be taken for testing at Battambang Provincial Referral Hospital following the “November 28 community incident”. Battambang Provincial Referral Hospital

Health Ministry officials are conducting contact tracing in earnest to try and contain the COVID-19 community transmission across the country, especially in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province.

Ministry of Health spokeswomen Or Vandine said yesterday that the ministry have to rush the testing of those who were in contact with the “November 28 community incident”. Working groups have visited the locations in contact with the incident.

“We have found [the locations] gradually and are ordering those in contact to have samples tested,” she said. “Some people have volunteered to be tested. The working group is still taking tests.”

“So far thousands of people have been tested,” Vandine added. “We found those in contact in the provinces. We have assigned the provincial authorities to take samples to be sent to the capital for testing.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered provincial authorities to assign buildings to be quarantine centres nationwide to prepare for those who do not have space to quarantine at home.

“I would like to order all the provinces to organise quarantine centres with thousands of rooms throughout the country,” he said.

Mr Hun Sen’s statement came during the groundbreaking ceremony of 38 road construction projects in Siem Reap province yesterday.

“We must be ready. I know that the provinces have prepared. But, we have to make sure there are enough materials and keep giving supplies consistently. People are required to be quarantined,” he said, calling for the authorities to help supply food to the people who will quarantine.

Mr Hun Sen said the quarantine centres will also double as a place where doctors can take COVID-19 samples to send to testing facilities.

He said that so far, there are two COVID-19 testing facilities in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Two new testing facilities are being constructed in Preah Sihanouk and Battambang provinces.

Mr Hun Sen said the government has distributed $290,000 throughout the country to help poor people who have to undertake 14-day quarantine. Each poor family will receive $5 per day for 15 days.

“Some poor families will not be able to make income, so their family will struggle to survive [in quarantine]. Even though the state will feed them at the quarantine centre, their families may have nothing to eat [in their absence]. So, we have to provide money for them,” he said.

The Ministry of Health yesterday announced eight new cases of community transmission of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 323.

The ministry statement said the new cases are all Cambodians living in Phnom Penh: five women, two men and a child. They were all in contact with the “November 28 community incident” – the first community transmission case that was the spouse of the Ministry of Interior’s director-general of prisons Lieutenant General Chhem Savuth. They have all been admitted to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in the capital for treatment.

Mr Hun Sen coined the “November 28 community incident” yesterday and named the COVID-19 infection of the senior official’s spouse as the “case of a missing source”.

“We do not yet know who transmitted the COVID-19 to Lt Gen Savuth’s spouse. We have not found the source of transmission. We are at a difficult point, it will be a disaster for our country if we do not prevent the spread in a timely manner,” he said.

As of Sunday, 3,332 samples of those who came in contact with the incident were taken in the capital and seven provinces. However, only 2,248 specimens have reportedly been tested (as of 1.30 am yesterday). Of them, 14 were COVID-19 positive.

Mr Hun Sen said an estimated 2,000 samples would be taken for testing yesterday.

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, who came in contact with Lt Gen Savuth, tested negative for the first time. His family members, those in contact with his family and security guards, totalling 94 people, also received negative COVID-19 results on their first test, according to Kheng’s Facebook post on Sunday.

Justice Minister Keut Rith and Environment Minister Say Samal reportedly tested negative on their first test after coming into contact with Lt Gen Savuth.

Suos Yara, CPP lawmaker and spokesman, who tested positive for COVID-19 after the “November 3 incident”, relapsed days after recovery.


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