Cambodia will deploy around 2,000 officials across the country to monitor the return of Chinese nationals during the annual Chinese New Year celebrations this week, after a pneumonia outbreak in China’s Hubei province.
The new coronavirus strain has been at the center of a pneumonia outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has recorded around 136 new cases just ahead of the major Chinese holiday. The virus strain is being likened to SARS, which killed at least 800 people during an outbreak in 2002 and 2003.
Health Ministry spokesperson Ly Sovann said that thermal scanners were being used at airports and the land border crossing at Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province, adding that the government was used to dealing with similar outbreaks of influenza in the region.
“In fact, we prevented a SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003, bird flu from 2004 to 2015, and had the MERS outbreak in 2015, as well as other global outbreaks, which means we have experience in prevention,” he said.
There were no reported cases of the novel coronavirus in Cambodia as of Monday, Ly Sovann said, but that health officials were on alert during the Chinese New Year holidays.
Chinese travelers and nationals working in Cambodia make up the largest group of tourists and expat workers, respectively. Last year, at least 2 million Chinese tourists visited Cambodia.
Questions remain over the new virus and whether human-to-human transmission is possible. The World Health Organization in Geneva last Wednesday said there was very limited potential for human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but that there was no evidence to show sustained transmission.
The WHO has announced that it will continue to monitor the condition and work with China to investigate the epidemic and provide technical expertise.