Cambodia may reintroduce outdoor face-mask use as Covid-19 cases surge

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia may reinstate the outdoor mask-wearing mandate if large-scale transmission of Covid-19 begins.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said this was a possibility if infections surge again after a long period of Covid-free status in the country was broken by dozens of cases last week.

The Phnom Penh Post reports him saying that if the rate of Covid-19 spread was low, it would not be a problem and the mask-free mandate may remain intact.

According to the health ministry, from June 28 to July 2, a total of 34 new cases were confirmed by PCR tests, most of which were apparently the result of transmission within the community.

The 34 infections are the first new cases found after a 52-day streak of zero Covid-19 cases reported in the country.

Hun Sen said there were no Covid-19 patients in any hospitals across the country and that all the new confirmed cases were mild and the patients preferred to treat themselves at home.

Speaking at the 20th National Fish Day, the premier also reminded the public that cases could rise again despite the low number of reported cases, and called on everyone to remain vigilant.

"We need to remain cautious about a recurrence because the problem of Covid-19 is far from over. We have just prevented the nation from falling to its death from the precipice," he said.

Meanwhile, he also called on the public not to panic over "fake news" about Covid-19 and warned that he has ordered the police to arrest anyone who spreads pandemic-related misinformation.

He cited the case of a man who had been arrested after posting fake news that a person had died after being vaccinated for Covid-19.

"Don't believe fake news about vaccinations. We had him arrested for spreading misinformation on TikTok along with a photo of a dead body, saying the person had died from getting vaccinated in Koh Kong province," he added.

"Something like this should not be the subject of pranks. There have been no deaths from Covid-19 in Koh Kong since April. I am warning you now that anyone who treats Covid-19 like a joke will be arrested because this subject isn't funny. If you make fun of it, you are causing chaos in society," he said.

Authorities have identified the TikTok user who used the account name "Ou Khong", and he has been charged with "inciting chaos in society."

Under Cambodian law, he can be jailed for between six months and two years, and fined from one million to four million riel (US$250-$1,000).

Meanwhile, the Khmer Times reports that health authorities have urged the public to declare if they test positive for Covid-19.

"We encourage the general population to go for Covid-19 tests if they suffer from any symptom. If the results are positive, they should report to the local officials and can pursue self-care treatment at home," said Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine.

"If they have severe symptoms like difficulty in breathing etc, health officials will shift them to hospital in a timely manner. Authorities can reach out to them only if they report about their positive status," she added.

She said that reporting of Covid-19 cases helped the authorities in tracking down the Covid-19 virus and its variants spread across the community.

Vandine said that perhaps some infected persons hid their health status out of concern that they would be taken to a treatment facility, but they were wrong to think so.

Only those patients with difficulty in breathing and other severe conditions will be transferred to a treatment centre. Others will undergo home treatment based on the ministry's standard operating procedures (SOPs).

She noted that even though the PCR test was not mandatory as people with mild symptoms are allowed to undergo home treatment by themselves, it is advisable to go for an independent test.

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