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COVID-19 Situation Worsens as Garment Factory Workers Test Positive

Garment workers wear masks on a shared ride to their homes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 10, 2021. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)
Garment workers wear masks on a shared ride to their homes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 10, 2021. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

Around 50 workers from a Phnom Penh garment factory tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, with Phnom Penh reporting more than 100 new cases and raising concerns over the continued increase in the country’s case count.

Dy Rath Khemrun, Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district deputy governor, said the workers who had tested positive for COVID-19 are from Din Han Enterprise, a Taiwanese-owned garment factory.

“Now we are taking samples from workers to be tested,” he said, adding that there were more than 2,500 workers in the factory.

Representatives for Din Han Enterprise could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Or Vandine, Health Ministry spokesperson, and Ngy Meanheng, director of the Phnom Penh Health Department, could not be reached for comment either.

Yang Sophorn, president of pro-worker union Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said that once garment workers contracted COVID-19 it would be difficult to control the spread in the community.

“Workers are truly worried and afraid. But they have no other choices besides continuing to work at their factory,” she said.

The union leader is concerned that the factories will have to temporarily shut down resulting in job losses and no salaries for workers.

“I urge the government and factory owners to continue supporting [workers] so they can support their families and pay back loans,” she added.

The Health Ministry on Thursday reports 113 new cases, 103 of which were in Phnom Penh. The ministry also announced two new COVID-19 deaths, taking the death toll to 24 as of Thursday.

Cambodia has reported 2,496 cases of COVID-19 since February 20, the most recent community transmission incident, with more than 1,000 active cases.

The government has turned the Great Duke Hotel into a makeshift hospital because of the increase in active cases and had to nationalize the Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital with private donations.

World Health Organization country representative Dr. Li Ailan said on Wednesday she was very concerned about the current situation.

“More than half (53%) of cases either cannot be linked to the original source of the outbreak or are under investigation. This is a warning sign that the virus is silently spreading within the community,” she said in an email.

“COVID-19 can spread silently because half of the cases identified in the current outbreak show no symptoms. This means they do not think they are sick, but in fact they are spreading the virus wherever they go,” she added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday instructed the Health Ministry to prepare guidelines to treat people with mild COVID-19 symptoms in their homes, as the recent surge in cases puts immense pressure on the country’s healthcare system.

“We can’t treat everyone [at a hospital] if cases increase more and more. There are fewer recoveries than the new cases,” he said on Tuesday.