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As COVID-19 Cases Surge, PM Asks Government, Private Sector to Work from Home

FILE - A woman wearing a face mask waits with dozens of others to get a coronavirus test at the National Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

The Ministry of Health reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest number of infections in a single day, resulting in further restrictions from the government.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the new cases were found among the police, government officials and artists, urging the public and private sector to take necessary measures to counter COVID-19.

“Today the situation in our country is grave. So far at this hour, we have found 49 new cases in Phnom Penh, Sihanouk province, Prey Veng province and some parts of Kandal province,” he said in the audio message.

Hun Sen asked 90 percent of government officials to work from home, except security forces and medical workers. He wanted the private sector to also reduce staff numbers at offices.

He asked the Senate to expedite the passing of the draft Law on "Measures to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 and other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases", which had severe prison sentences for violating COVID-19 measures.

With new cases, the Ministry of Education said it had decided to suspend public and private schools in Peam Ro district in Prey Veng province until further notice.

The February 20 event is the third community transmission COVID-19 cluster that has resulted in the closure of some businesses and entertainment venues, as well as travel restriction in Preah Sihanouk province.

Chhay Sivlin, president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said the hospitality and tourism sectors were already experiencing the impact of the global pandemic, which would only get worse with the current cluster causing more job losses and business closures.

“With the new infections, the hospitality and tourism sector will see another blow,” she said.

“When there were fewer new cases, local tourism had improved a bit. Now as the situation deteriorates, workers may not be able to work and there's a restriction on travel.”

She also appealed for the government to continue to support for the tourism sector during these difficult times.

Yong Kim Eng, director of the People's Center for Development and Peace, said the new cluster was worsening the impacts felt on people's livelihood and the economy.

“The main concern is [people’s] livelihood, particularly small businesses. No movement of people means no buyers,” he said.