Cambodia: Around 15,000 migrant workers return home from Thailand amidst fear of the spread of Covid-19 pandemic; govt. struggles to test and monitor them

Author: Malis Tum, VOA Khmer, Published on: 25 March 2020

"Government Struggles to Monitor Returning Migrant Workers for Coronavirus", 25 March 2020

Only 35 of the around 15,000 Cambodian migrant workers who returned to the country from Thailand have been tested for the coronavirus, with Interior Minister Sar Kheng admitting the government was incapable of testing everyone.

After Thailand announced it was closing all land border crossings with Cambodia, thousands of Cambodians flocked to the border attempting to get back before the ban was enforced ... The Interior Minister pegged the number of returnees at 15,000.

However, the Banteay Meanchey Health Department reported that only 35 individuals had been tested for the respiratory disease at the Poipet border crossing, a major checkpoint for the movement of workers and goods between Cambodia and Thailand.

Keo Sopheaktra, director at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Health Department, said the 35 were tested because they had a high temperature and showed some symptoms, such as a sore throat…

Interior Minister Sar Kheng admitted … that Cambodian authorities could not monitor all 15,000 of people nor enforce a 14-day quarantine for all the returnees.

… The minister’s suggestion to quarantine an entire village is the first instance of a government official suggesting some form of a lockdown, beyond the restrictions on large gatherings already in place.

… Pok Samnang, 32, had been working in a factory in Chonburi province, Thailand, for more than 5 years. He returned through the Poipet border crossing this week and has placed himself in quarantine, using a makeshift enclosure 300 meters from his house, fearing he could have contracted the virus…

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