Crowd virus epidemic pressures Cambodia to throw ‘national tragedy’

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Cambodia has been hit by the worst outbreak of the coronavirus since the epidemic began more than a year ago, with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying the Southeast Asian country is on the verge of a “national tragedy”.

In less than a week, more than a thousand cases of the virus have been recorded in Cambodia. As of Wednesday, 35 people died.

This compares to less than 500 cases in the first year of the epidemic, and no COVID-19-related deaths have been reported.

On Thursday, the government instructed all residents of the capital, Phnom Penh, and the surrounding district of Ta Khomau, to stay home if they did not need to buy food or receive medical treatment.

The lockdown comes in the middle of the Khmer New Year, a three-day national holiday that began on Wednesday, and usually sees thousands of Cambodians travel to their home provinces to celebrate.

Earlier in the week, the WHO asked people to stay home.

“We are on the brink of a national tragedy because of COVID-19. Despite our best efforts, we are struggling to control the virus. “Every day there are new cases and we are fighting against the virus,” said Dr. Lee Aylan, the WHO representative in Cambodia.

“If we do not stop this outbreak, Cambodia’s healthcare system is at great risk, with catastrophic consequences.”

Cambodia had previously experienced only small clusters of COVID-19 that were quickly controlled, but Dr Lee said the emergence of the UK version of COVID-19 – officially known as the B.1.1.7 variant – meant things were different this time around.

“The B.1.1.7 The form spreads more easily among people and can cause serious illness“Many countries, including strong health care systems, are overwhelmed by this variant. We need to make sure that the same thing does not happen in Cambodia,” he said.

Restrictions have been imposed on the entire lockdown in some areas of the capital [Mak Remissa/EPA]

All new cases are associated with an outbreak known as the February 20 event, marking the date it was first detected. The original was traced to four Chinese nationals who allegedly bribed a security guard to leave the hotel separation before a 14-day suspension. The report said the group came from Dubai, one of more than 90 countries where B.1.1. The var variant is now spread.

‘Bad administration’

Prime Minister Hun Sen acknowledged in a speech last Saturday that “bad governance” was one of the reasons for the growing outbreak, which was responsible for more than 30 viral clashes in Cambodia and pushed the country’s total number of cases to more than 4,500.

At least 50 people who tested positive for COVID-19 gave false information about their address, leaving authorities unable to identify them.

As a cause for further concern, the virus has spread to the garment industry, which provides jobs for millions of people and is an important part of the economy. At least 50 infections have been reported so far at the Day Han factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and more workers are at risk.

May Sofakatra, secretary-general of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) president, said the workers themselves were concerned about the risks.

Sophiakatra added that there was insufficient monitoring in the factory to ensure that workers were following COVID-19 guidelines, such as social distance.

“The garment industry is not closely monitored,” he said, adding that digital thermometers at the sites appeared to be defective.

Transportation is also a big concern, he said. Factories employ thousands of workers, mostly women, from poor rural areas. Many travel in tightly packed trucks for work and travel trucks are loaded with passengers while they are open to the wind.

“They don’t have social distance when they’re in trucks, 30 to 40 of them get on the same truck at once.”

Millions of people make a living from the garment industry, but civil society is concerned that workers are at risk of the disease because there is little monitoring of physical distance when traveling to work. [Kith Serey/EPA]

Other hotspots include several local markets, which are concentrated with merchants and customers from all over the country.

Such areas were at high risk, said Dr. Michael Kinzer, program director of the Global Health Protection (DGHP) division of the CDC Cambodia.

“There are three locations which are called‘ Three C ’locations and the three CCs stand in close proximity and are crowded and confined. And if you want to think of it as an example, a KTV [karaoke television lounge] Dr. Kinjar told Al Jazeera, “It would be a good example of being in a public place where everyone talks about drinking in places of friendship.”

“We see infections in family members, so people who eat and drink in the same family and people who can’t wear masks while eating together are more likely to get in the car.”

Travel prohibited, curfew

In an effort to stem the tide, the government has introduced a raft of restrictions and heavy fines for those who break the rules.

Hun Sen recently threatened those violating the measures – including a ban on inter-district travel, a ban on wearing mandatory masks and a nighttime curfew in the capital and some other areas – with immediate arrest and imprisonment.

There have been a number of COID-19 cases, particularly in and around some of Phnom Penh, and roads built by police and military police have been closed and sealed off.

Cambodia has one of the few healthcare systems in the region. The World Bank’s most recent figures show that only 5 percent of government spending is spent on healthcare, compared to 9 percent in Vietnam and 15 percent in Thailand. Cambodians carry their burden: 57 percent of the country’s health spending comes ‘out of pocket’ – Myanmar alone, 76 percent, more.

Cambodia has the lowest number of hospital beds per 1,000 people in the region – 0.99. The study shows that access to healthcare is especially difficult for poor Cambodians in rural areas.

To meet potential demand, the government has turned a hotel and a huge wedding center into a temporary CVID-19 hospital and added more than 5,000 beds, local media reported. It is recommended to isolate the mildly sympathetic Covid-19 patient at home.

Authorities are also rushing to distribute vaccines, which are now mandatory for civilian and military personnel. Most of Cambodia’s vaccine stocks came from China, which donated one million doses of Synoform Jab. Cambodia has also bought the Sinovac vaccine.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been given a dose of the AstraZeneca Cavid-19 vaccine at a Phnom Penh hospital on March 4. The country has received the vaccine from China through the UN-backed Kovacs program. [Stringer/EPA]

It has gained access to stocks of the AstraZeneca vaccine through a UN-backed Kovacs program that helps poor countries deliver the vaccine.

On the weekend, the government announced that it had conducted 1,000,000 jobs.

“Well, we have a few tools that we didn’t have last year,” Dr. Kinzer said. “One of them is the vaccine. And vaccines will help reduce the number of our susceptibles. And numbers in severe cases. “

Kinzer warns that the current pace of outbreaks is exceeding the capacity of contract-cleaning workers, as new cases are being sought outside the list of their known contacts.

“So, we should expect that even if we succeed, it will continue for a few more weeks,” he said.

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