Restaurant and food court operators have begun to receive clarification on health guidelines that they can follow to ensure that they are not closed down by City Hall inspectors, after businesses repeatedly stated there had been little to no direct communication or consultation during the pandemic.
The clarification comes after Governor of Phnom Penh, Khuong Sreng warned on Monday that any restaurants that do not follow the new directive to prevent the spread of COVID-19 would be temporarily closed until they complied with regulations.
According to notification No. 042/20, “[Restaurant] Owners shall prepare hand sanitiser and check temperatures at entrances before allowing customers to enter their restaurant or food court while a physical distancing policy shall be implemented correctly following the instructions from the Ministry of Health.”
In addition, the Phnom Penh Municipality – in conjunction with the 14 district governors – began yesterday to deploy working groups to various restaurants and food courts providing leaflets and checking that businesses adhere to the previously stated guidelines.
It posted on its official Facebook page yesterday photos of a working group, in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district, inspecting food venues and informing owners how to ensure that their venue adhered to the new guidelines.
However, the directive’s “physical distancing policy” still remains unclear with some sources reporting inspectors are requesting tables be placed 1.5 meters apart.
This has not been confirmed despite repeated requests for clarification from the Ministry of Health put forward by this publication.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Khmer Times has reported on a number of incidents reflecting confusion among restaurants owners.
Last week requests were made by the local Cambodian Movement for Health that “the government needs to consider a temporary ban on all forms of alcohol advertising and sales to prevent the [COVID-19] virus from spreading in the community through gatherings”.
In response, several alcohol-related business owners collectively expressed their outright condemnation of the proposed request.
They observed that most had experienced their worst-ever trading period over the past two months – and have to either lay off staff or close completely.
Also last month, Khmer Times was informed by a US business owner at a popular eatery in Phnom Penh’s BKK1 district that local authorities requested he close his restaurant on several occasions.
He said authorities entered his premises asking for his thumbprint on an official closure document. After refusing to sign he was advised that fines and potentially permanent cancellation of his licence could occur if he did not follow “official” directives.
A similar story was corroborated by a local restaurant owner in the same street who explained to Khmer Times that authorities entered his establishment and requested him to close for breaching regulations.
They left after he showed them a video on his smartphone of Mr Hun Sen giving a speech during which the Prime Minister stated that “factories, markets, cafes and restaurants will not be closed”.