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French Tourists with COVID-19 Traveled across Country; Authorities Attempting to Trace Others

FILE: A tour guide leads a group of tourists at Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Saturday, July 16th, 2016. ( Leng Len/VOA Khmer)
FILE: A tour guide leads a group of tourists at Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Saturday, July 16th, 2016. ( Leng Len/VOA Khmer)

Health officials are on the lookout for people who may have come in contact with a French tour group, after 31 French nationals in the group tested positive with the coronavirus over the weekend.

A group of 36 French nationals were part of a tour group, of which 31 people tested positive for the respiratory disease in Preah Sihanouk province’s Sihanoukville town. Two people tested positive on Saturday, whereas 29 other French tourists tested positive on Sunday. Additionally, two Cambodian guides accompanying them also tested positive.

One of the infected tour guides said the entire tour group and the other guide were placed under quarantine at the Independence Hotel in Sihanoukville. Hai, who only gave VOA Khmer his first name, added that prior to their arrival in Cambodia, the French tourists had flown to Singapore, then stayed in Laos for two nights before continuing on to Siem Reap.

The group then proceeded to Battambang and Phnom Penh, before heading to Sihanoukville, confirmed the bus company they used.

The tour guide said he joined the group on March 18, last week, and started to have muscle aches, a cough and body pain starting March 19.

“The doctor asked me to take fever medication like paracetamol,” he said. “I took a paracetamol and got better. But, this morning I got a fever again.”

Chin Sovannary, who organizes bookings for Chea Lorn bus company, confirmed the travel itinerary for the group. She said the French tourists visited Angkor Wat and few other tourist sites in Siem Reap, but did not attend the River Festival in Battambang, which attended by Prime Minister Hun Sen two weeks ago. The French tourists also took Battambang province’s bamboo trains.

While in Phnom Penh, she said, they visited Wat Phnom. Three drivers who ferried the tourists around the country had also been tested for the viral disease, Chin Sovannary said.

"They tested and got the results last night. They were negative. But the two tour guides got infected,” she said.

The tourists stayed at the Angkor Holiday Hotel in Siem Reap, Stung Sangke in Battambang, and Poulo Wei Hotel in Phnom Penh. Receptionists at the three hotels confirmed that health officials had visited all three hotels and ordered all staff members with symptoms to get tested.

Sari Solida, a receptionist at the Stung Sangke Hotel in Battambang, had visited the hotel on Monday but not undertaken any sanitizing efforts, deciding to test only six hotel staff members.

It was unclear if all staff members at these hotels would be tested and if officials would be able to trace all the people the French tour group came in contact with.

Lim Samean, director of the Preah Sihanouk provincial health department, said those found with the coronavirus were being monitored in Sihanoukville, and that authorities were looking for people who had been in contact with them.

As of Monday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Cambodia had risen to 87, of which 52 were foreign nationals and 35 were Cambodians, according to Health Ministry.