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Experts: Gov’t Should Consider Short, But Stringent Lockdown in Phnom Penh


A billboard cautioning against the spread of COVID-19 can be seen on the outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 30, 2021. (Tum Malis/VOA Khmer)

Economic experts say the Cambodian government could consider enforcing a stronger, but short, lockdown in Phnom Penh that would include the stopping of business activity to stem the spread of COVID-19 infections.

On Tuesday, The Ministry of Health reported 105 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total case count to 2377. More than 1,800 of these cases have been reported since February 20, which is Cambodia’s second community transmission and has shown no signs of abating.

Ky Sereyvath, an economic expert at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the government could consider a temporary lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said that gatherings were causing the spread of the disease.

“Rather than what we are doing currently, I think that we should close down for a short period as part of a tough measure to control the situation after which we can push for economic growth again,” he said.

Ky Sereyvath added that Phnom Penh lockdown would most affect market vendors, small and medium enterprises, and economically disadvantaged people.

He then asked: “If there is a lockdown in the city and factories suspend their operation, who would support the wage of the workers and how?”

The government has suspended all gatherings and shutdown entertainment venues, public and private schools in Phnom Penh and other provinces. Many vendors and small businesses have proactively halted operations due to a decrease in the number of customers.

Ngeth Chou, an economic expert, said a citywide lockdown would be devastating for the economy, particularly for low-wage earners. However, the government should consider blocking travel from one high-risk area to another to curb the infection.

“If we look at it, the [economic] effects are already severe,” he said. “Some people have had to close down their business despite no instructions from the government because they are worried.”

“Some who still take risks by keeping their doors open are finding it difficult to generate income.”

VOA Khmer could not reach the Ministry of Health Spokesperson Or Vandine for comment on Tuesday.

Dr. Li Ailan, the World Health Organization’s representative in Cambodia, posted her concerns with the latest COVID-19 outbreak on Facebook.

“We are concerned. #COVID19 situation in #Cambodia is NOT getting better,” the post reads. “Before it is getting worse, I urge all individuals to implement all the combined measures seriously.”

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