Cambodia shattered its daily record of COVID-19 infections on Friday amid a worsening outbreak with nearly 700 cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus, while neighboring Laos saw a dramatic uptick in infections with its largest count to date, suggesting the pandemic is far from over in Southeast Asia.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Health said that in addition to the 700 people who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the country’s death toll from the pandemic rose to 61 with a caseload of more than 8,000 people.
While the coronavirus made few inroads into Cambodia in 2020, the country’s economy—which leans heavily on the production of textiles—has been battered by a drop in export demand and a series of lockdowns meant to stem the spread of the virus. Migrant workers in next-door Thailand also lost their jobs in lockdowns.
The drastic rise in infections led Prime Minister Hun Sen to issue a 14-day closure of all non-essential businesses in the capital Phnom Penh and neighboring Takhmao in Kandal province from April 15-28 and require the two cities’ combined 2.3 million residents to adhere to a strict curfew or, in certain “red zones,” stay in their homes except in the case of an emergency.
Residents of the affected red zone districts within Phnom Penh and Takhmao have said they have yet to receive any promised food or supplies from the government, despite the threat of being arrested if they leave their homes, and claim they are running out of supplies.
Authorities have also threatened to fine anyone found in breach of the lockdown between 1-20 million riels (U.S. $250-4,950) and punish them with between six months to five years in prison. More than 120 people have been arrested, with several being detained and charged for disobeying the curfew and lockdown since April 15.
Police in the capital region have been using batons and sticks to chase and beat people wandering outside of their homes in recent days—videos of which were distributed by local authorities via posts to their Facebook accounts.
In Laos, the Ministry of Health identified 65 people Friday who had been infected with COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 159, according to Sisavath Southanilaxay, director of the infectious diseases department for the ministry and a representative of the COVID-19 protection unit.
“Of the newly infected people, 60 are from [the capital] Vientiane, two are from Champassak province, two are from Bokeo province, and one is from Vientiane province,” he said.
Full story: rfa.org
Reported by RFA’s Khmer and Lao Services, Translated by Samean Yun and Sidney Khotpanya. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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