Cambodia launches Covid lockdown in capital, Thailand records sharp rises in cases

By Reuters   April 14, 2021 | 10:55 pm PT
Cambodia launches Covid lockdown in capital, Thailand records sharp rises in cases
People wearing protective face masks rush to buy groceries at a fresh market amid rumors of a citywide lockdown during the latest Covid-19 outbreak at a temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 14, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Cindy Liu.
Cambodia brought in a coronavirus lockdown in Phnom Penh on Thursday in a bid to contain a spike in cases while Thailand continued to record over 1,000 new cases daily.

Under the Cambodia lockdown, which is also imposed on a satellite district of the capital, most people are banned from leaving home except for going to work, to buy food, or for medical treatment.

Police manning checkpoints on Thursday in Phnom Penh asked motorists to show work documents and identity cards in order to pass, television footage on local media showed.

In a voice message posted on his official Facebook page, Hun Sen warned Cambodia was on the brink of "death valley" and urged people to work together to avoid calamity.

"The purpose of the lockdown is to combat the spread of Covid-19 and this closure is not a way to make people die or suffer," he said.

The Southeast Asian country still has one of the world's smallest coronavirus caseloads, but an outbreak that started in late February saw cases spike almost ten-fold to 4,874 within two months and the first deaths recorded with 36 fatalities.

Hours before the lockdown, Hun Sen's message was leaked on social media, prompted panic buying of food and other goods in shops by residents in Phnom Penh and the nearby Takhmau area, where a lockdown has also been imposed.

Tran Dac Phu, senior advisor of the Vietnamese Health Ministry's public health emergency operations center, has warned on Tuesday that the infection risk across the Cambodia-Vietnam border is high.

"The border between Vietnam and Cambodia is really long, not to mention the sea and air routes. It should be noted that controlling travel by sea is truly difficult."

Many Vietnamese people stay and do business in Cambodia and the number of people traveling back and forth, both legally and illegally, is high, he said.

There have also been concerns among the public in Vietnam about the situation in Thailand, another Southeast Asian neighbor.

Thailand reported 1,543 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the sharpest increase since the start of the pandemic and the fourth record rise this week, amid a third wave of infections in the country.

It reported 1,335 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday.

The spike in cases comes as Thais celebrate the Songkran new year holidays and authorities have urged people to avoid unnecessary travel and reduce gatherings to help limit the outbreak, which includes the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain.

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