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Cambodia's New Virus Rules Restrain Holiday Celebrations


Cambodian students, holding the portrait of King Norodom Sihamoni, participate in the country's 67th Independence Day celebration, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodians marked their Independence Day holiday Monday, but new coronavirus restrictions kept them from celebrating at karaoke parlors, beer gardens, museums, cinemas and other entertainment venues, which have been ordered shut until further notice.

Students in Phnom Penh, the capital, and the satellite town of Kandal will not be returning to schools on Tuesday as an Education Ministry order to contain the spread of the virus has shut them down in those places for two weeks.

The new restrictions were issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday because Hungary’s foreign minister tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Cambodia last week.

Peter Szijjarto tested positive upon arrival in Thailand on Tuesday following his one-day Cambodia visit. He was placed in quarantine in Bangkok before leaving for Hungary on Wednesday.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Saturday that a Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said the bodyguard was the only one of more than 900 people who were involved with Szijjarto’s visit to test positive.

Hun Sen and four Cabinet ministers are in quarantine because they met with Szijjarto the same day he tested positive. Hun Sen said he has tested negative and will abide by the country’s coronavirus guidelines and stay quarantined for 14 days.

All the people involved with the Hungarian foreign minister’s trip were undergoing a second coronavirus test Monday. They will be tested four times during the 14-day quarantine period.

Education Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha issued a statement Monday saying Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium would close its gym and other facilities because the infected Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto also coached sports there.

In his Saturday audio message, Hun Sen said he would not declare a national or local state of emergency, or bar travel by people not involved, but urged people to observe Health Ministry guidelines.

Cambodia has reported a total of 297 cases of the coronavirus, with no deaths.

The Education Ministry said the school shutdown was necessary because it has been unable to collect enough information from the parents of those students who had direct or indirect contact with Szijjarto.

Schools throughout Cambodia reopened on Nov. 2 after being closed since March due to the coronavirus, but with limited class sizes and hours.

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