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Cambodia Reports First COVID-19 Death Since Start of Outbreak

Motorcycle riders wear face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

Cambodia has reported its first COVID-19 death since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as a recent community transmission cluster continues to spread throughout the provinces.

The Ministry of Health released a statement on Thursday reporting the death of a Cambodian man, a former chauffeur to a foreign national, who is also recovering from the disease.

The 50-year-old tested positive on February 27 and is part of the February 20 cluster which has, so far, recorded close to 630 COVID-19 cases.

Or Vandine, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said some patients with COVID-19 are not in stable condition but did not give further details.

“Currently, some other patients are not in good condition. Our medical team is working very hard to help them,” she said in an interview with Bayon TV, which is owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter.

The spokesperson also raised concern over the recent outbreak, which has doubled the country’s case count in the last two weeks.

“I am personally very concerned. We all need to be highly vigilant. It is an alarming situation,” she said. “The fast-transmitting UK variant is now active in Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh.

The World Health Organization in Phnom Penh released a statement Thursday, expressing its sympathies to the country’s first death which marked a milestone in Cambodia’s struggle against the virus.

“Until today, Cambodia was part of an increasingly small group of countries which had yet to experience deaths due to COVID-19. Today’s sad death has highlighted that Cambodia is at a tipping point in its struggle against COVID-19,” the statement reads.

Li Ailan, the WHO’s representative to Cambodia, said it was critical for everyone to follow health and safety guidelines and failure to work as a community could be “devastating.”

Since the start of the outbreak in January 2020, Cambodia has reported 1,163 cases of COVID-19 across the country.