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Health Ministry Downplays Risks of Community Transmission in BKK1

FILE: Women is masks watch employees of the non-profit Cambodian Children's Fund spray disinfectant in help curb the spread of the new coronavirus in the slum neighborhood of Stung Meanchey in southern Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

As of Thursday morning, there were 122 reported cases of the coronavirus in the country, with 98 of those patients recovering from the respiratory disease.

Days after the health minister raised concerns over community transmission in the capital’s Boeung Keng Kang 1 district, officials on Thursday said there was a low risk of COVID-19 cluster infections in the upmarket locality, despite a recent slew of cases of the respiratory disease.

Health Ministry spokesperson Ly Sovann said that a couple who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus was receiving treatment at Chak Angre Hospital and that some people in the same apartment building had been tested for the disease, with some results returning negative.

“All people who had direct and indirect contact with those patients have also been tested and, so far, some of them have been negative, some are waiting for the results,” he said.

“They don't have any symptoms, so the risk is very low in that area.”

But on Monday, Health Minister Mam Bunheng told reporters that recent cases in Phnom Penh suggested that could be small-scale community transmission in the capital.

“The reported cases in Phnom Penh in recent days were possibly the result of small-scale community transmissions,” he said.

Ly Sovann said there was no risk of community transmission and directed residents of the locality to maintain personal hygiene and social distancing.

The couple in question were reported COVID-19 positive on April 12, with a Ministry of Health statement reporting that the Vietnamese woman and her Canadian husband worked at a local casino.

The case and Mam Bunheng’s suggestion of community transmission have raised concerns in the district.

On April 13, the Ministry of Education posted an advisory note on its Facebook page asking for Education Ministry officials and students to not eat at restaurants in BKK1 and to stay away from the district. However, shortly thereafter, the post was taken down without reason.

VOA Khmer could not reach Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron and ministry spokespersons for comment.

Samuth Bunthoeun, a security guard at a pharmacy close to the couple’s apartment building, said he was concerned about the respiratory disease and was taking extra precautions with his hygiene.

“In the morning, I take a shower. I wash my hands with soap and wash my hands with alcohol,” said the 29-year-old security guard.

Prak Mali, commune chief of Boeung Keng Kang 1 district, said there was no reason for concerns because the ministry had tested 28 individuals, all of which were negative, and had sanitized the area as well.

"The staff who were working there, such as cleaners, caretakers, and the person in charge of the apartment were tested, but they are not infected,” she said.

As of Thursday morning, there were 122 reported cases of the virus in the country, with 98 of those patients recovering from the respiratory disease.