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Over 100 Cambodians reportedly infected in Thailand

Tith Kongnov / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodian migrant workers have their temperatures checked at O’Smach International Border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province. GDI

The Thai Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control (DDC) has reported on its website that as of yesterday evening, a total 108 Cambodians in Thailand have tested positive for COVID-19.

It noted that other nationalities who also tested positive were 623 Myanmar, 82 Indians and 972 others. The report did not specify whether the 108 infected Cambodians were migrant workers.

Ouk Vitya, deputy director of Battambang provincial health department was quoted on a local radio station as saying on Tuesday that Thai health authorities had recorded 106 COVID-19 positive cases among Cambodian migrant workers on Monday. He said they are receiving treatment in Thai hospitals.

Vitya urged all Cambodians who are working in Thailand, which is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, not to rush to return home but instead remain put because Thailand also has facilities for testing and quarantine which is free of charge too.

“If they have returned through the border or corridors they have to quarantine 14 days before returning to their homes.  If anyone sees a relatives or neighbour who has returned from Thailand, they should immediately report to local authorities so that the returnees can be sent for the mandatory 14 days,” Vitya said while participating as a speaker in a talk show on Chamkar Chek National Radio on Tuesday.

The Health Ministry announced yesterday that Cambodia’s migrant workers COVID-19 cluster has increased to 18 and the total tally now 383 including a 28-year-old male from Pailin province who returned from Thailand on January 2. He is being treated in Pailin hospital. However, the Ministry of Health said yesterday that it has yet to verify the reported cases.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said she had not received any information on the matter.

Voeurng Bunreth, director of the Battambang provincial health department yesterday declined to comment on the reported 106 cases.

Migrant workers arrive from Thailand at O’Smach International Border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province on Monday. GDI

However, he said that at present, the managemen of workers returning from Thailand is well under control by relevant authorities and health officials, and no migrant workers have returned to the Kingdom without a permit.

Bunreth also appealed to people to cooperate with authorities, and provide information if they come across workers who have just returned from Thailand who may be infected with COVID-19.

He added that the number of workers returning from Thailand through the Battambang provincial border is normal, between 20 and 50 or sometimes more than 100 per day.

Khloak Huot, director of Oddar Meanchey provincial health department, told Khmer Times yesterday that he did not know the exact number of workers in Thailand, who had been tested for COVID-19 but noted that most of those who entered through the province’s border came from high risk areas in Thailand such as Samut Sakhon and Bangkok.

“When we ask migrant workers who come in daily, most say they are from Samut Sakhon, Samut  Prakan, Chonburi and Bangkok,” he said.

Ban Sreymom, governor of Pailin province, said that so far 235 migrant workers have returned from Thailand between December 20 and Tuesday including 12 who tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 6,465 migrant workers have so far returned from Thailand over the past two weeks and about 129 workers have been allowed to return to their homes after being quarantined at centres in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces.

The Thai government has declared an emergency shutdown of the country from January 16 to February 28 in efforts to continue to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, especially a new strain in the country. This was confirmed by the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in Bangkok yesterday.

The embassy in a statement said that all Cambodians living, studying and working in Thailand should not panic over the shutdown but they need to follow the instructions of Thai authorities, especially the Ministry of Health of Thailand.

It appealed to all Cambodians in Thailand to continue following the Thai government’s preventive measures including practicing good hygiene.

It also said in the statament that in case of any problem, Cambodians could contact the embassy via its Facebook page or by phone numbers 092 8050 561 (Consular Section / Student) and 094 0925 905 (Labour Department).

Meanwhile countries in Southeast Asia are continuing to stockpile vaccines in view of worsening outbreaks.

In Laos, health officials are gearing up to vaccinate a second group of frontline workers after the initial group showed no ill effects. Cambodia’s northern neighbour has a total of 41 COVID cases, with 40 recoveries.

On Tuesday, Thailand ordered 35 million more AstraZeneca vaccines, bringing their total orders to 68 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. According to Channel News Asia, 200,000 Chinese-made Sinovac doses will arrive next month. Thailand is also developing its own vaccine and will start trials in May.

Vietnam has ordered 30 million AstraZenca doses as well and plans to purchase additional doses from the Covax facility, according to Xinhua. A Vietnamese-made vaccine was given to volunteers in the country last month.

Indonesia, meanwhile, announced it would start its vaccine rollout programme on January 13, with President Joko Widodo set to receive the first dose.

Channel News Asia reported that Australia is set to start vaccinating in March as it continues to effectively manage the virus. The country won’t approve a vaccine candidate for at least another month.

The strain which originated in the United Kingdom, and has found its way into Thailand and Vietnam, and the strain which originated in South Africa have not yet been reported in Cambodia. Both are considered to be more transmissible than the original strain.

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