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Quarantined at border: Recruitment agencies to suspend sending workers to Thailand until further notice

Brian Badzmierowski and Tith Kongnov / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodian migrant workers leave Thailand through O’Smach International Border Checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province. Fresh News

Strict border restrictions imposed on Sunday have led to 543 Cambodians being placed under 14-day quarantine at the three main border crossings – O’Smach, Doung, and Poipet.

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They were ferried to the quarantine sites by 23 military trucks.

Le Chansangvath, director of Banteay Meanchey provincial health department, said 310 migrant workers came through Poipet International Border checkpoint yesterday, and all of them went into quarantine.

He said that 46 of them had their samples taken for testing.

Khlok Huot, director of Oddar Meanchey provincial health department, said the first batch of 172 Cambodian migrant workers arrived at the O’Smach International Border Checkpoint at about 11am and were transported by military trucks to Samraong city for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Another 22, who arrived in the latter part of the day, were also taken to their respective quarantine centres after the initial health checks.

In Battambang, provincial director of the administrative department Chhay Matinal, said 33 Cambodians had crossed through the Doung international border on Monday.

While public health presence at the border together with relevant officials are further strengthened, the authorities at the seven provinces along the Thai border have remained vigilant and alert for no illegal entry.

They are at Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Pursat, and Koh Kong provinces.

The government assured that they will strengthen compliance and enforcement efforts and not leave a stone unturned in their bid to stop the spread of the disease to communities residing at the Thai border.

Cambodia tightened its Cambodia-Thai border following the surge of COVID-19 cases in Thailand especially at the Central Shrimp Market in Samut Sakhon’s Muang district on Sunday with more than 500 cases on Saturday.

The Bangkok Post reported that in total, more than 800 COVID-19  cases have been found in Samut Sakhon, a coastal province that borders Bangkok to the west.

In a statement issued yesterday, Labour Minister Ith Samheng said that all recruitment agencies have to suspend sending  migrant workers to Thailand due to the COVID-19 outbreak until further notice.

“Suspend the sending of workers through the MOU to Thailand until a new notice is issued,” he said.

A health official takes a COVID-19 virus sample at Doung International Border Checkpoint in Battambang province. TVK

Meanwhile, a new COVID-19 case was reported on Monday after    Cambodian-American woman was tested positive upon her arrival in Phnom Penh.

The 55-year old woman who was travelling from the United States via Taiwan had travelled on a plane with 43 other passengers, according to a Ministry of Health statement.

She was tested positive at the Pasteur Institute while the remaining 43 passengers tested negative. She is being treated at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control.

Thirty-six of the passengers are quarantined in hotels in the capital, while seven others at Hun Sen Borey 100 Khnong High School.

The new positive case brings Cambodia’s total cases to 363 with 345 recoveries and no deaths.

In an audio message released on Facebook Sunday evening, Prime Minister Hun Sen had asked Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand to trust the Thai government as they have experience in containing outbreaks.

Kem Chamroeun, a labour consultant in Thailand, said on his Facebook page that no Cambodian workers in Thailand have been infected with COVID-19 as a result of the seafood market outbreak.

He said a lockdown would be in effect in Samut Sakhon until January 3, 2021, with public places like schools, stadiums, childcare centres and supermarkets closed as well.

“I would like to call on Cambodian workers in Thailand to avoid going to crowded places and always wear a face mask, wash hands frequently with soap or sanitise with alcohol gel,” Chamroeun urged.

In another related news, the Ministry of Health urged all Cambodians to strictly reinforce adherence to COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures and to protect themselves and their families against the deadly coronavirus.

“This strict compliance should be practiced through New Year,” it said in a statement.

It emphasised that the most important factors were wearing facemasks, social distancing of at least 1.5 metres, avoiding crowded places, and no physical contact with people.

The ministry reiterated that gatherings should not be more than 20 people.

“We need the support and cooperation of everyone to fight this unprecedented battle against COVID-19 and avert a large-scale community outbreak so as to return to normalcy and the new normal,” the Ministry added.

The ministry also said that all commercial entities, shops, restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and banks among others should be disinfected and kept clean and not allow anyone inside who is not wearing a mask.

It also urged all businesses to continue implementing the social distancing including the sitting arrangements besides taking temperature and sanitizing hands.

Cambodia is one of the countries with low incidences of COVID-19 cases and there were allegations that the nation may be playing down the numbers.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said that the ministry has been working very hard to keep the numbers down by putting in place the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to manage, contain and stop the spread right from the first cases reported in the Kingdom..

“We have never withheld information or hide the actual numbers,” she said, adding that there was no reason for them not to disclose the actual situation.

She said even Mr Hun Sen had been very transparent with all COVID-19 cases as it’s important to impart correct information to the people so that they can take all the precautionary measures to prevent being infected.

“We do not believe in hiding information as every life is important to us. We will do everything within our means to protect the people against the deadly virus,” said Vandine.

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