The World Health Organization has expressed its concern over an influx of migrant workers from Thailand, saying it might lead to cluster infection within the communities.
Li Ailan, WHO’s country representative, said in an email on Tuesday she supported the priorities and risk-based measures highlighted by Prime Minister Hun Sen which are vital in the fight against COVID-19 in the Kingdom.
“WHO is indeed concerned about the COVID-19 risk in relation to the massive returning migrant workers,” Ms Li said.
She said it is equally important to prepare for the response to community transmission and mitigate its health, social and economic impacts.
“This means while we hope for the best, we also prepare for the worst. In this case the worst is the large-scale community transmission of the virus. WHO is pleased to see such preparation has been already ongoing in Cambodia,” she said.
Mr Hun Sen at the press conference on Tuesday said the government was very concerned about some 60,000 migrant worker who recently returned from Thailand.
Ms Li said the WHO Country Office in Cambodia has been communicating and working with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior and the UN Country Team, including the International Organization for Migration to support the Cambodian government’s efforts in confronting this ongoing challenge.
“No doubt, it is essential to put public health and social measures in place to prevent additional imported cases, stop transmission and treat the patients,” Ms Li said.
WHO appreciated the Cambodian government’s swift action in helping stop transmission and prevent the further spread of the new virus despite the challenges, she added.
Tol Sarin, O’Beichoan commune chief in Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrov district, said yesterday hundreds of migrant workers cross the Thai-Cambodia border to return home every day.
“Yesterday [on Tuesday] 300 migrant workers came from Thailand. Today about 100 people crossed the border to return to villages,” Mr Sarin said.
Mr Sarin said health workers, including armed forces are on standby to have their body temperature checked.
“We have instructed them to go into self-isolation for 14 days to ensure they contract no virus and not spread it to their families and community,” he said.
Chea Krouch, spokesman for Kampong Cham provincial hall, said more than 2,000 migrant workers who returned recently from Thailand have been self-quarantined at their individual homes.
Additionally, 150 Cambo- dian nationals remain stranded in Malaysia after Mr Hun Sen banned their flight from Malaysia in a bid to stem the Coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia was working with Malaysian authorities to facilitate their temporary stays.
The Cambodian embassy in Malaysia posted on its Facebook page yesterday embassy officials visited Kuala Lumpur International Airport to meet stranded Cambodians.
“Please understand and be patient and take precautious against the spread of COVID-19 globally. The embassy is continuing to help all of you,” read the post.
Moeun Tola, executive director of labour rights Central, said yesterday it is the government’s duty to protect its citizens.
He said the government should not let them be stranded in Malaysia.
“The government should allow them to return home. Upon their arrival, they should have their health thoroughly checked and be quarantined for 14 days,” Mr Tola said, noting the embassy has to arrange temporary accommodation for them in Malaysia, including visa extension, and food.
Meanwhile, 24 crew members of Viking Cruise Journey vessel were allowed to return to their homes and respective countries on Monday after their 14-day quarantine, according to Mr Krouch of Kampong Cham provincial hall.
The crew members comprised of 23 Cambodian and a Myanmar national. They were quarantined separately for 14 days from March 25 to April in Mekong hotel in Kampong Cham city.
Seven of the 30 cruise passengers tested positive for the virus earlier last month after it docked in Kampong Cham province.