Phnom Penh, Cambodia – The World Health Organization (WHO) said Cambodia is under the control of the worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic broke out more than a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. know, while warning that this Southeast Asian country is on the verge of a “national tragedy”.
In less than a week, Cambodia has recorded more than 1,000 viral infections. As of Wednesday, 35 people died.
That compares with fewer than 500 cases in the first year of the pandemic and no deaths associated with COVID-19 have been reported.
On Thursday, the government ordered all residents in the capital Phnom Penh and neighboring Ta Khmau district to stay at home unless they need to buy food or seek medical care.
The lockdown takes place in the middle of the Khmer’s New Year, a three-day national holiday that starts on Wednesday, and often sees thousands of Cambodians travel back to their home provinces to eat. glad.
WHO earlier this week urged everyone to stay home.
“We are on the brink of a national tragedy because of COVID-19. Despite our best efforts, we are still struggling to get control of the virus. Dr. Li Ailan, WHO Representative to Cambodia, said new cases happen every day and we are racing against the virus.
“Unless we can stop an outbreak, Cambodia’s health system is at high risk of being overwhelmed and leading to dire consequences.”
Cambodia previously only experienced small clusters of rapidly controlled COVID-19, but Dr. Li says that the arrival of the COVID-19 variant in the UK – officially known as variant B.1.1.7 – has That means things are different this time.
“The Variation B.1.1.7 spreads more easily among people and can cause serious illness“Many countries with strong health systems have been overwhelmed by this variation,” she said. We need to make sure the same doesn’t happen in Cambodia.
All new cases involve an outbreak known as the February 20 event, marking the date it was first discovered. The origins have been traced to four Chinese nationals who allegedly bribed security staff to leave the hotel quarantine before the end of their authorized 14-day stay. The reports said the group came from Dubai, one of more than 90 countries where variant B.1.1.7 is already gaining popularity.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in a speech on Saturday admitted that “bad governance” was a factor leading to a worse outbreak, which has caused more than 30 deaths related to microbes. Withdrawal from Cambodia and has pushed the total number of cases in the country to more than 4,500.
At least 50 people who tested positive for COVID-19 gave false information about their address, making it impossible for authorities to locate them.
More alarming, the virus has spread into the garment industry, which provides jobs for millions and is an important part of the economy. So far, at least 50 infections have been detected at Din Han’s factory in Phnom Penh, the capital, and supporters are concerned that more workers will be more susceptible to the disease.
May Sopheaktra, secretary general of the President of the Cambodian Union of Trade Union (CATU), said workers themselves are increasingly concerned about the risks.
Sopheaktra added that there is no adequate oversight in factories to ensure workers adhere to COVID-19 principles, such as away from society.
“The garment industry is not closely monitored, and adds that digital thermometers are being used in seemingly faulty locations,” he said.
Transportation is also a big concern, he said. The factories employ thousands of employees, mostly women, from poor rural areas. Many people come and go from work in packed trucks. While the trucks blatantly operated, they were packed with passengers.
“When they are in a truck, they have no social distancing, 30 to 40 of them sit on the same truck at the same time.”
Other hotspots include several local markets, which are also crowded with merchants and customers from all over the country.
These areas are at high risk, said Dr. Michael Kinzer, program director at CDC Cambodia’s Global Health Protection Division (DGHP).
“There are so-called ‘ba C’ locations, and ba C is meant for near, crowded, and limited neighborhoods. And if you want to think of an example, a KTV [karaoke television lounge] Dr Kinzer told Al Jazeera would be a good example when everyone is indoors in an enclosed space, talking and eating, those are high-risk environments.
“We are seeing transmission among family members, so people who live in the house, people who eat together because you cannot wear a mask while eating and drinking. People who ride by car. That is another risk factor ”.
Prohibit travel, curfew
In an effort to curb the outbreak, the government introduced a series of restrictions and tough penalties on those who broke the rules.
Hun Sen recently threatened people who violated measures – including a travel ban between districts, mandatory masking and a curfew at night in the capital and several other areas – by arresting immediate detention and imprisonment.
Several neighborhoods in Phnom Penh with an exceptionally high number of COVID-19 cases have also been locked and blocked by police and military police fences.
Cambodia has one of the most under-financed healthcare systems in the region. The most recent World Bank data shows that only 5% of government spending is on health care, compared with 9% in Vietnam and 15% in Thailand. The burden is borne by Cambodians themselves: 57% of the country’s health spending is “out of pocket” – only Myanmar, with 76%, is higher.
Cambodia also has the lowest reported number in the region for the number of hospital beds per 1,000 population – 0.9. Studies show that access to health care is also particularly difficult for poor Cambodians in rural provinces.
To cope with the potential demand, the government turned a large hotel and wedding center into a makeshift COVID-19 hospital, adding more than 5,000 beds, according to local media. It also asked COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms to quarantine at home.
Authorities are also urgently distributing vaccines, which are now mandatory for military officials and officials. Much of Cambodia’s vaccine stockpile comes from China, which has funded one million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. Cambodia has also bought the Sinovac vaccine.
It also has access to the AstraZeneca vaccine stockpile through a UN-supported COVAX program, which helps poor countries access vaccine supplies.
At the end of the week, the government announced it had managed the 1,000,000th stab.
“Well, we have a few tools that we didn’t have last year,” said Dr. Kinzer. “Of course, one of them is a vaccine. And vaccines will help us reduce the number of people who get sick. And the number of heavy cases. “
However, Kinzer warns that the current outbreak rate is beyond the capabilities of the contracted staff, as the newly discovered cases are out of their known contact list.
“So we should expect that to continue for a few more weeks, even if we do,” he said.