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New cluster cases spike: ‘February 20’ incident infections rise to 47

Tith Kongnov / Khmer Times Share:
Police stop motorists at a barricade set up at an entry point to Koh Pich where the February 20 cluster spread. KT/Pann Rachana

The COVID-19 cluster on Koh Pich, Phnom Penh – linked to a group of travellers who absconded from quarantine – has spiked to 47 cases following the discovery of 15 new ones.

In addition, there have been two imported cases, one from overseas and the other a returnee migrant worker from Thailand, bringing the total number of cases registered in the Kingdom to 533.

The Ministry of Health issued a press release yesterday confirming the discovery of 17 cases of COVID-19, including 15 positive cases in the “February 20 Community Incident” and the two imported cases, as well as three new recoveries.

The two new cases are 43-year-old Czech woman who flew from the Czech Republic via South Korea and arrived in Cambodia on February 7 and a 47-year-old Cambodian migrant worker who returned from Thailand on February 18.

All 17 new patients have been admitted to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and Chak Angre Health Centre in Phnom Penh, and Banteay Meanchey Provincial Referral Hospital.

The new recoveries are a 26-year-old Nigerian man and a 26-year-old Chinese woman who flew in from China via South Korea on January 15.

The third is a 20-year-old Cambodian woman living in Ta Mom village, Metoek commune, Bakan district, Pursat province, who returned from Thailand on January 15.

All three tested negative for the second time and the two foreigners will be released from the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control and the Cambodian woman from Palin Provincial Referral Hospital.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that 32 new positive COVID-19 cases had been detected within 10 hours on Friday night, mostly Chinese, including a Vietnamese and another national.

He made the announcement in a special broadcast, after calling for an emergency meeting with ministers. He dubbed this new wave as the “February 20 Community Incident”.

According to the Premier, a Chinese woman in Phnom Penh who planned to go abroad took a COVID-19 test and her test result came back positive. Thus, the people who had been in contact with her, almost all of whom are Chinese, were traced and brought for testing.

Many of results came back positive and 32 people related to the cluster had been tested positive.

The source of the outbreak was traced back to four quarantined people from Sokha hotel who escaped by bribing two security guards in the past few days and who had spent time in several condominiums in the capital. Two of them, according to Mr Hun Sen, were tested positive for the virus.

Two security guards at the hotel were identified and detained for investigation for accepting bribes to allow the four to escape.

Regarding the outbreak of the February 20 Community Incident, Mr Hun Sen has not yet ordered the closure of weddings, schools or other places, but hopes that all people continue to participate with Health Ministry’s preventive measures.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine briefs the media on vaccines to arrive in the Kingdom. KT/Pann Rachana

He also advised Cambodian workers not to return from Thailand for the upcoming Khmer New Year in April, because they will need to be quarantined and won’t be able to join in celebrations.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry on Friday said that more than 4,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO), will arrive in Cambodia from India during the first quarter of March or April.

It will be the first batch of vaccines provided under the WHO-led COVAX initiative.

Health Ministry spokeswoman, Or Vandine told a press conference the ministry had already approved the AsraZeneca vaccine for emergency use.

Vandine added that the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines could arrive in Cambodia between March and April if conditions remain unchanged, and a total of 1,296,000 doses are projected to be shipped from India to Cambodia during this period.

She said about 453,600 to 518,400 doses are to be delivered under the COVAX Facility during the first four months of the year while 777,600 to 842,400 doses are scheduled to arrive between July and August.

In another development, Poipet City Military Police on Saturday arrested a broker who was trying to smuggle illegal migrant workers to Thailand.

They also detained the seven workers who were taken to Brahma Nimit Primary School in the city for quarantine.

Colonel Men Phearum, Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy military police chief, said that the arrests took place on Friday night in O’Chrov village, Poipet commune, while his military force were patrolling the border.

Col Phirum confirmed that upon questioning a worker admitted that a broker intended to take them across the border to work in Thailand.

He said the 34-year-old broker confessed that he had been transporting the seven workers to cross the border illegally into Thailand and charged them $50 per person.

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