Factory workers wear masks at the end of their shift near Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Source: AP Photo / Heng Sinith
The record increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases has left Cambodians trapped and indoors with the government extending the night curfew after banning alcohol sales, closing the border between 24 provinces and give prison sentences to those who break the rules.
Almost all stores are closed, while restaurants are only allowed to provide take-out service. Locking the size of a city block around COVID-19 hotspots is a common occurrence. Nearly all confirmed cases have been associated with a variant of the disease in the UK.
“I accept to be called a dictator, but I will also be admired for protecting the lives of my people,” Prime Minister Hun Sen told Cambodians when declaring prison sentences of up to 20. year for those who violate quarantine rules. Curfew has been extended until April 29.
“Those who violate COVID-19 measures must be convicted.” he say.
Prison terms will also apply to those who test positive and refuse medical treatment or avoid authorities while officials, soldiers, and judiciary have been warned that They will be dismissed if they refuse to be vaccinated
The severity of the persecution reminds an alert from UN experts that anti-COVID measures – and especially disclosure of patient’s private details – can undermine fundamental human rights.
“We are concerned that administrative and criminal measures, including prison sentences and the excessive fines set forth in the law, appear disproportionate and unjustified,” experts said in a joint statement. . Among them was Rhona Smith, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia.
But that is unlikely to get a lot of attention in a country that is pausing.
It was a far cry from Cambodia’s experience in the first year of the pandemic when the government was praised for handling the disease, shutting down sovereign pests and imposing social outliers and incentives. Encourage early face masking.
But that has changed dramatically.
The third local outbreak in Cambodia – known as the February 20 Community Event – was triggered by two young Chinese women who bribed a guard, violated quarantine and partying in nightclubs in Phnom Penh.
Since then, confirmed cases have risen to 4,696 with at least 33 deaths, compared with just 484 and no deaths in the entire year, before February 20.
That prompted officials to turn the hall into a hospital complex in anticipation that the case load could only be significantly increased, highlighting the UK variant’s validity. The catastrophic projections were supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), which issued “a stern warning.”
“We are on the brink of a national tragedy because of COVID-19. Dr. Li Ailan, WHO Representative in Cambodia, said, despite our best efforts, we are struggling to control the virus, advising everyone to stay home for the Khmer New Year this week “to protect your family, community and country ”.
“New cases happen every day and we are racing against viruses,” said Ailan. “Unless we can stop the outbreak, Cambodia’s health system is at high risk of being overwhelmed, leading to dire consequences.”
Among the few recent bright spots is the country’s implementation of a vaccination program.
About 1 million Cambodians have been vaccinated against the disease, out of a total of 16 million people, as of February 10, the Ministry of Health says.
The government plans to vaccinate its 10 million citizens, initially with AstraZeneca and Chinese-made vaccines.
Australia has emerged as the largest donor with a pledge of US $ 28 million to help vaccinate 1.5 million people through the WHO-approved Covax facility.
China initially promised to provide 1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, enough to inject 500,000 Cambodians (the vaccine required two shots per person). A second batch was promised while another 1.5 million doses of the vaccine are being purchased from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt