Prime Minister Hun Sen has approved an additional budget of $375,000 for quarantine centres in four provinces bordering Thailand to cope with a growing number of returning migrant workers.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Youk Sambath said yesterday the government is also providing additional essential supplies such as food, water and other materials for those who are quarantined.
She said Battambang province received $75,000, 1,000 cases of pure water and 1,000 cases of instant noodles while Banteay Meanchey received $75,000 and an additional 1,000 kits comprising bedding and other materials.
Oddar Meanchey province received $100,000, 500 kits and 1,000 cases of pure water and Pailin province received $125,000 with 1,000 cases of pure water and 1,000 cases of instant noodles.
Sambath said that the provision of assistance to the provinces bordering Thailand has been carried out for the quarantine of Cambodian workers returning from Thailand in the wake of a high incidence of COVID-19 there.
Dy Rado, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said yesterday that the current budget provided by the government to Oddar Meanchey provincial administration is very good because the number of workers returning from Thailand through O’smach and Choam international border checkpoints is increasing.
He said it would solve the problem of providing sufficient food, accommodation, water and electricity to make the migrant workers feel comfortable.
“With this budget, we can improve the facilities in the centres so that migrant workers can be looked after well. If the facilities are not good enough they may try to flee from quarantine,” Rado said.
In another development, relevant officials at the Doung International border checkpoint in Battambang province on Monday stopped a mango truck carrying five returning workers from Thailand who were trying to avoid doing quarantine.
Kong Sambath, deputy governor of Kamrieng district, told KhmerTimes yesterday that so far the relevant officials at the International Dung International border checkpoint were taking the strictest and most thorough measures to prevent brokers from trying to deceive authorities by hiding workers in large baskets meant for goods.
He said that authorities have been discussing plans to block small trucks carrying goods in and out of the border every day.
“The Battambang provincial administrative unity command has also set and issued a new order banning small vehicles from transporting goods from Thailand to Cambodia and Cambodia to Thailand through the international border checkpoint Doung or Lem in Kamrieng district,” Sambath said.
He also said the five workers being smuggled in were four Cambodians and one Vietnamese woman.
After the authorities caught them, all five were taken to a quarantine centre while the driver of the truck was sent to the Kamrieng district police inspectorate for further action.
In view of the growing exodus, the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand on Monday requested all Cambodian workers who are in Thailand not to cross the border into Cambodia without doing quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the community.
The embassy also requested the authorities in Cambodia and Thailand to provide details of brokers and workers who are caught crossing the border illegally.
It said the information could be given to the embassy in Bangkok and the Consulate General.
On Monday, Mr Hun Sen expressed his concern over such illegal crossings by returnee migrant workers trying to avoid being quarantined and ordered the relevant ministries to look into increasing penalties to act as deterrents.
Yesterday morning, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice officials met to discuss ways to increase the penalties.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Kim Santepheap said the meeting was to review the provisions of the sub-decree on health regulations to prevent and respond to the international spread of diseases at the Kingdom’s entry points.
As of Tuesday, more than 350,460 Cambodian workers have returned to Cambodia from Thailand. The Ministry of Health has found 89 cases of COVID-19 among the returnees.
Meanwhile, a report provided by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defence said that from February 10 to Monday, more than 7,000 Cambodians were vaccinated against COVID-19 at five major public hospitals in Phnom Penh.
It said 2,122 were civilians and 4,969 were from the armed forces, including soldiers and military police, as well as National Police personnel.
The Sinopharm vaccines being used are from 600,000 doses which were donated by the Chinese government and which arrived in Cambodia on February 7.
The vaccinations were conducted on a voluntary basis at Calmette Hospital, Ang Duong Hospital, Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and National Pediatric Hospital.
The armed forces are being vaccinated at Ket Mealea Hospital and there are plans to vaccinate soldiers at their respective units in the future.