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Travel Restrictions Placed on Preah Sihanouk as February 20 Cluster Spreads

Sihanoukville during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, May 17, 2020. (Khan Sokummono/VOA Khmer)
Sihanoukville during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, May 17, 2020. (Khan Sokummono/VOA Khmer)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday night instructed Preah Sihanouk officials to restrict travel in the province, as the February 20 community COVID-19 cluster shows no signs of easing.

Cambodia’s second community transmission event has registered 402 cases so far and has spread from Phnom Penh and Kandal to Preah Sihanouk and Svay Rieng provinces. These cases were tracked to foreign nationals.

Hun Sen said provincial authorities should prevent Preah Sihanouk residents from leaving the province and traveling to nearby Kep and Kampot or on National Road 4, which leads to Phnom Penh.

“We can’t shut down the city entirely because of the transportation of goods in and out. But for people, there must be an effort to curb the spread [of the virus] to other provinces,” he said in an audio message released Wednesday night.

“So, please ask the people to stay in Preah Sihanouk province.”

He added that people in the affected provinces should be vaccinated as a priority. Cambodia received 324,000 doses of the Indian-made AstraZenca COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

“The second measure is to promote vaccinations that have to move forward. Those aged 59 and under [will get Sinopharm] and AstraZeneca for those over the age of 60,” Hun Sen said.

The Sinopharm vaccine is being administered to people under the age of 60 because it is not suitable for older people. The vaccine also has a long list of medical conditions that exclude a person from getting the vaccine.

On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported 28 new infections linked to the February 20 cluster, with Preah Sihanouk provincial officials reporting a total of 80 cases since the start of the outbreak.

Chuon Narin, Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief, said the travel restrictions were temporary and that the provincial administration would adjust the restriction as per the case count.

“We will check if travel is not necessary, and we will not allow traffic to move out to avoid the spread of COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Cheap Sotheary, a provincial staffer at local rights group Adhoc, said some consideration should be given to transportation workers and private taxi operators, as well as people in need of medical treatment.