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Police Officer’s Family in Shock After His Rapid Progression from Infection to Death

FILE - A traffic police officer takes a drink of water while being dispatched to guard outside the Supreme Court building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on August 22, 2018. (Ty Aulissa/VOA Khmer)

There was little time for Thoeun Sothearoth to process her father’s death. Last week, the former traffic police officer was coughing and breathless, and shortly after being admitted to the hospital, he died from COVID-19.

Thorn Chanthoeun was later diagnosed with COVID-19, leaving his family in disbelief over the quick progression of the disease.

“I didn’t know he had COVID-19 until he died,” said Thoeun Sothearoth, who lives in Kandal province’s Prek Luong commune.

The 28-year-old daughter of Thorn Chanthoeun said her father had been previously diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and another stomach illness.

On the night of March 24, Thoeun Sothearoth said her father couldn't sleep and was coughing a lot. The family decided to admit him to Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on March 25 and later that afternoon the Health Ministry confirmed his death.

“The medical worker saw that my father had a high fever and gasping for air. So, they asked to test my father for COVID-19,” she said. “I never thought it could be that disease.”

Ngy Meng, the president of Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, declined to comment, said the Health Ministry had already released all the relevant information about people who had died from COVID-19.

Or Vandine, a secretary of state at the Health Ministry, couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 11, 2021. (Photo provided by Pring Samrang)
Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 11, 2021. (Photo provided by Pring Samrang)

Thoeun Sothearoth, who lived with her father, said she could not think of where Thorn Chanthoeun would have got infected with the novel coronavirus.

“I don’t think it is from the family since I am always home, my husband is a construction worker in the village and my aging grandmother is always home,” she said.

“He always protected himself by wearing a mask and using [hand] sanitizer because he is a traffic police officer,” she added.

Cambodia is currently in the midst of its second community transmission event, which means the country is unable to confirm cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, according to the World Health Organization.

The country also reported its first death this month since the start of the pandemic, with 11 reported deaths so far.

The Health Ministry said a 72-year-old woman in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district came to the hospital for treatment on March 27, tested positive for COVID-19, and died the same day.

In another case, a 62-year-old woman went to Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on March 20, tested positive on March 21, and passed on March 23.

A crowd of people and vendors are seen at a market in Phnom Penh on February 1, 2021. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy/AFP)
A crowd of people and vendors are seen at a market in Phnom Penh on February 1, 2021. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy/AFP)

The deaths are likely linked to the prevalence of the U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus, which preliminary data suggested is more contagious and deadlier.

Pov Vuthy, village chief of Kdey Chas where the police officer lived, said 10 family members had been quarantined and the people in the village were concerned about the virus.

“People need to protect each other,” he said.

Tim Vora, executive director of the Health Action Coordinating Committee, said the current community transmission was the most serious so far and that people should not hesitate to get tested if they think they have COVID-19 symptoms.

“Some people don’t know when it is serious, and then they urgently go to the hospital,” he said. “With the current transmission event, people need to check their and their family’s health regularly.”

Since February 20, the Cambodian Health Ministry on Tuesday reported 104 new cases in the community transmission. There have been 1,851 new cases and more than 2,000 cases since the start of the viral outbreak last year.

Thoeun Sothearoth is currently in quarantine at home with other family members, including her 92-year-old grandmother. She is waiting for COVID-19 test results, samples for which were collected on March 26.

She has yet to be informed about whether her father’s body has been cremated or not.

“I don’t have that information because I am in quarantine and I can’t go out,” she said. “How would you feel if you were me in that situation?”