The Cambodian government will continue to keep schools and some businesses closed even as the Health Ministry has reported three weeks of no new novel coronavirus cases in the country.
At the weekly ministry press conference, Health Minister Mam Bunheng said there were no new cases to report on Monday. This marked 22 days since the last positive case of the disease was reported on April 11, leaving Cambodia’s tally at 122 cases, 120 recoveries, and zero deaths.
The minister said the restrictions on public gatherings and the closure of schools and some businesses, like theaters, beer gardens, karaoke bars, and massage parlors, would have to continue to prevent any further spread of the virus.
“We need to continue [suspended those businesses] to make sure that we are good in control,” said Minister Mam Bunheng.
“We should never try to take another risk. If we take another risk, we would face more difficulties.”
As Cambodia began to register a significant increase in cases, the government shutdown public and private schools in March. It then proceeded to close businesses like karaoke bars, clubs, beer gardens, cinemas, and casinos, while preventing public gatherings, such as concerts.
World Health Organization country representative Dr. Li Ailan said opening businesses where people congregated in groups could risk an increase in infections.
"We found that high transmission often occurred in the area with poor ventilation, very crowded space, an area with very active singing and talking, and an area with poor preventive measures,” she said in the press conference.
While Minister Mam Bunheng said the government had conducted 12,370 tests in total, ministry spokesperson Ly Sovann said around 800 tests were performed in the last seven days, down from the 1,700 tests conducted in the week ending April 27.
“We don’t have new cases. So, we only test for suspected cases with pneumonia, a few remaining people who had contact with patients and people who are monitoring this disease,” Ly Sovann said.
Ngeth Chou, a Cambodian economist, said that if the business closures continued for a few more weeks, the government would have to release a stimulus package to help businesses, especially workers.
“If the closure is longer than a few more weeks, there will be the need for a special package to recover companies impacted by COVID-19, especially their staffs,” Ngeth Chou said. “They need to be supported for their livelihood.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen had announced that the government had $500 million for this year to deal with the COVID-19 economic slowdown and up to $2 billion if the economic fallout lasted till next year.