Khmer Times has criticised the Ministry of Health on several occasions and even suggested for the Minister to be replaced in the pending Cabinet Reshuffle.
Despite all these criticisms, its handling of the current COVID-19 Pandemic is appalling in many aspects. Chief among these is the late evening or night release of a statement confirming the number of victims, incomplete at that.
The reason behind this is baffling as such information was already circulating hours ahead of the official statement being released. When released finally, after 9pm or even at 11pm, the information is not complete, such as lacking in travel history, the condition of the infected victims, their age and gender.
More importantly, do the hospitals where they are being quarantined have the necessary medical equipment and personnel to administer treatment such as ventilators and anti retroviral drugs, sufficient hazmat suits and related equipment and materials.
As one Ministry official, exasperated with the situation revealed to Khmer Times, “The official announcement is being delayed to late evening or even night so that when the news breaks, people may be in bed and will miss the immediate impact of the news.”
This assumption, if true, is nonsensical as official announcements are better than social media circulated ‘citizen journalism’ reports which are not factually accurate, speculative and even exaggerated greatly.
Case in point is the information coming out of Sihanoukville last night which stated that police were cordoning off Sihanoukville when only the Independent Hotel was being cordoned.
Cambodia has seen a late surge in the virus and as such had time to prepare and put adequate mechanisms in place to release information and details, as well as pertinent information on the number of infected as such information, when read by the masses at large could play a part in identifying possible contacts of infected persons.
Another example is a Cambodian tracked down for being in close proximity with a COVID-19 positive patient in the province. Instead of bringing the patient in for testing, the officials concerned merely told the patient to go for testing.
The next day that person, together with his family of seven, left for the city and got under the radar again, thus making it all the more difficult as he has to be tracked down again. By that time, one shudders as to whether he is positive, how many has been in close proximity with him and for how long.
This is now a community based or cluster pandemic in Cambodia and Ministry of Health must step up its game. Failure to do so will see Cambodia facing more cases and more delayed release of information and panic, even though that is that the Government and the authorities are trying to achieve – panic.