More than 3,000 Chinese nationals flew into the Kingdom from Wuhan after the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, before Chinese authorities locked down the city on January 23 to contain its spread, officials said.
The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation yesterday confirmed Chinese aviation data that approximately 3,078 Chinese left Wuhan city before the lockdown.
The data said that 1,539 of them took direct flights to Preah Sihanouk International Airport and 1,539 to Siem Reap International Airport.
It said more than 20,000 Chinese nationals flew from Wuhan to Thailand, nearly 10,000 to Singapore, and more than 12,000 to Japan and South Korea.
Secretariat spokesman Chea Oun said yesterday that these Chinese nationals travelled to Cambodia from Wuhan before the Chinese authorities announced a temporary ban on flights out of the city on January 23.
“Our records show that they are still in Cambodia because they are unable to return to Wuhan because of the lockdown,” he said.
Mr Oun expressed concern over the situation because the authorities do not know if any of the Chinese nationals had been exposed to the virus in Wuhan before flying out.
“However, the authorities, relevant ministries, institutions and local authorities are paying close attention to preventing and controlling the disease from spreading in the Kingdom,” he said.
Mr Oun noted that Cambodia has not yet suspended flights from China.
On Monday, the Health Ministry announced that the first case of Novel Coronavirus in the Kingdom was a 60-year-old Chinese national Jia Jianhua, who is now quarantined at the Preah Sihanouk provincial referral hospital.
Mr Jia and his three family members left Wuhan for Sihanoukville on January 23, before the lockdown was enforced, via a direct flight but only he tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus.
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng and Environment Minister Say Samal yesterday visited Preah Sihanouk International Airport to check on the thermal scanning of passengers there. They also visited Mr Jia in the hospital and checked on his condition.
Mr Bun Heng told the media after his visit that Mr Jia’s condition is stable.
“Our medical team is closely monitoring his condition,” he said.
Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann said yesterday the ministry has located 70 people who were on the same flight as Mr Jia and none of them show any signs of the virus.
He noted that health experts are continuing to conduct checks on them.
“As of 6pm today [yesterday] there is no new case of the coronavirus in Cambodia so far,” Mr Sovann said.
The outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus has prompted China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration and other authorities to implement measures to control and prevent the spread of the virus, including a ban on trading of wild animals nationwide.
World Wildlife Fund-Cambodia yesterday announced that it supports the decision to place a temporary ban on all wild animal trade.
It said the move underscores the need for greater public awareness about not only the associated threats to human health posed by illegal or unregulated wildlife trade, but also the impact on wild populations and global biodiversity.
“This health crisis must serve as a wake-up call for the need to end unsustainable use of endangered animals and their parts, as exotic pets, for food consumption and for their perceived medicinal value,” WWF noted. “We encourage the Chinese government to continue its efforts to reduce demand for wildlife, raise public awareness and work with other governments, conservation organisations, the private sector and local communities to end the illegal wildlife trade”.
Following the detection of the first Novel Coronavirus infection in the Kingdom, the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education urged factory owners, workers, educational institutions’ managements, education officials and students to take measures laid out by the Health Ministry to protect themselves from the new strain of coronavirus.
A group of 30 Cambodians studying in China yesterday returned to the Kingdom via the Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet International Border Checkpoint.
Provincial health department director Keo Sopheaktra said after their arrival, doctors examined them and none were detected with any sign of the virus.