The Ministry of Health reported 576 new cases of COVID-19, a new daily record, with Phnom Penh registering the most cases on account of clusters in garment factories and local markets.
Cambodia has now recorded a total of 3,604 COVID-19 cases since last year, with 3,072 of these cases linked to the ongoing February 20 community event, which is Cambodia’s worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.
Phnom Penh accounted for 544 of the 576 new cases, with the municipal administration turning the Chea Sim Samaky High School into a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients with a capacity of up to 238 patients.
The Health Ministry statement released Friday said 497 patients in Phnom Penh had not been transferred to a treatment facility.
Two clusters have emerged in Phnom Penh: one at the popular Orussey Market and the other at a Taiwanese-owned factory, Din Han Enterprise, in Meanchey district, according to Phnom Penh spokesperson Met Measpheakdey.
“It is normally like that when you have more infections sourced from the main geographical clusters and we also detected more cases in other locations in the capital,” he told VOA Khmer.
Asked about the spreads throughout the city’s markets, Met Measpheakdey said the capital’s marketplaces are upping their vigilance and enforcement of COVID-19 measures.
“We have enforced various measures since the start of the pandemic, but there still exist incidents causing us difficulties like the one in Orussey Market,” he said.
The government’s sub-committee on COVID-19 surveillance said on Friday it had started contact tracing of patients at multiple markets in Phnom Penh, including Deum Kor, Neak Meas, Boeng Prolit, Dei Thmei, and Boeung Trabek Plaza.
Deputy National Police Chief Dy Vichea, who heads the sub-committee, told VOA Khmer that the announcements were only an alert for people to be safe and that no cases had been found at these markets.
“We only know that patients had been to these markets but we have not detected any new positive cases of people who are sellers at these markets,” Dy Vichea said.
In the Meanchey district, residents and garment workers from an Adidas supplier, Din Han Enterprise factory, have tested positive for the disease with authorities asking other workers and their families to get tested immediately.
According to the Municipal Administration’s late announcement on Friday, new positive cases were also detected at two other factories near the Meanchey District.
Labor Ministry Spokesperson Heng Sour did not respond to a request for comment.
Health Ministry Spokesperson Or Vandine expressed serious concern over people who were refusing to follow the Health Ministry’s safety guidelines.
“The spike in the number of patients causes a concern for long-term public health consequences in the time that we are facing a high risk of large-scale transmission of the virus in the community,” she wrote in a group chat on messaging application Telegram.
Li Ailan, who heads the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said it was concerning those infections were spreading through garment factories and local markets, but noted the decision to close factories should be done using a “risk-based approach” balancing health and economic factors.
“What is also concerning is that this outbreak contains the B.1.1.7 variant, which spreads faster and causes serious illness,” she said. “There is the potential for this outbreak to be a national disaster, and we must work together to prevent this.”