What is the situation in Cambodia and in de region of the village specifically at this moment?
What about medical care, casualties, contaminations…
Cambodia had the first case relating to the COVID–19 pandemic confirmed on 27 January 2020. Cambodia’s last reported new case was on April 12. Since the first case to the last, totally there were 122 patients tested positive, officially reported by the Ministry of Health. 122 patients have multi-nationality and were hospitalized across the country but all tests were sent to Institute Pasteur in Phnom Penh, the only eligible laboratory for Covid-19 testing whom is working under strict guidelines of WHO standard. Those multi-national patients were hospitalized across the country and all relevant costs (hospital, medical care, testing, meals…) were fully covered by the Cambodian government. (Roughly estimated each Covid-19 sample testing costs between 120$ – 150USD/ per test and each patient before being discharged required a minimum of 4 to 6 testing times to ensure the negative result.) Important notice is that all 122 cases were imported cases. There is no Covid-19 symptom developing from the local community. On 17 May 2020, the Cambodian government, Ministry of Health publicly announced that the last remaining patient (patient #122) had been discharged. The Ministry of Health said that Cambodia’s public health officials, especially front line personnel, had gained immense knowledge and capacity in attending to the cases in the 13 provinces. A total of 14,684 tests have been done since January, the ministry said. As the number of Covid-19 cases rised, healthcare systems in a country like Cambodia have faced great challenges. The health experts and international organisations warned that Cambodia’s chronically underfunded healthcare system would also be overwhelmed if an outbreak continues to occur.
On May 21 however a new case was found. A Cambodian man of 26 year old who returned from the Philippines (via South Korea flight) was confirmed Covid-19 positive and has been sent to The Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital for treatment. In total there were 62 passengers on this flights (one Belgian) and they have all been put into a quarantine center near Phnom Penh. On May 22 a 39-year-old Khmer woman was confirmed Covid-19 positive. She was landed from New York (via Korean flights) on 8 May and was at home in self-isolation.
The government and business, gradually, return to their normality. However, Cambodia continues to put the restrictions related to the virus – including school closures and border entry checks and quarantines according to the Ministry of Health statement. I think the government has taken the great consideration to be “Better safe than sorry” because the country’s healthcare system and resources cannot afford the crowd patient spread out.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has officially announced to re-open the museums nationwide from 1st of June. There are 31 museums across Cambodia. And starting 20th May, foreigners from Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US who were banned from entering Cambodia since the novel corona virus has broken out will be allowed to visit the Kingdom as normal.
Now the challenge remains to open up the economic activities step by step in order to halt a possible meltdown of the economy that could push the nation into serious recession. That in its turn could lead to mass job losses besides the more than 100,000 jobs lost in the garment sector, 90,000 migrant workers from Thailand, tens of thousands of hotel and service industry workers and many more tens of thousands in the informal sector who are dependent on the formal sector for their livelihood.
Some hotel and school buildings have been put forth to accommodate the patients and quarantine. As for prevention measurements to the virus spreading in the Phnom Srok district in particular the Phnom Srok High school has been assigned as a Covid-19 quarantine center for people in the district who came back from Thailand. A hundred of people who have suspected symptoms have been asked to stay in the quarantine for 14 days before releasing them go back home. The Centre still operates today.
How does it affect daily live? Is there a lockdown or quarantine, are the schools and shops closed? And what are the perspectives?
Covid-19 virus has affected the life of everyone around the world including Cambodia and Rong Vean village. In March I talked to the villagers about the Covid-19 virus and I asked ‘do you understand how the virus is being transmitted’? They said they heard from people to people. Then they started to scare people who had worked with foreigner students like Miss Saiyuon and Mrs. Out (housekeeper of the Guesthouse). They started to ignore them and they also did not want to talk to people (migrant workers) who came back from Thailand. This situation made people in the village isolated from each other. The migrant workers felt very confused between social distancing and discriminated because the villagers scared them and suspected that they were the potential virus infection spreaders. Such misunderstanding occurred because of the Rong Vean villagers having low level of understanding of the Covid-19.
Luckily, RongVean village seems to have a better situation than Belgium in terms of spreading and infection of Covid-19. However, no one in the village was tested for finding out the Covid-19. In Belgium, the healthcare system is much better than Cambodia.
Regarding children education, we did a small survey to find out how much time each individual student spends on self-study and E-learning resources. The initial result showed that the individual student didn’t work hard enough for his or her own good. Their will power to fight for their bright future is quite low. The majority of students didn’t own a Smartphone although most of the family households have one. Currently, both the Ministry of Education and Private education sectors have worked hard to innovate their resources for Online learning. There are adequate Online platforms available including TV channels.
The Ministry of Education Youth and Sport and private education sectors have been working in cohesion stepping forward to create and innovate E-learning recourses. (A good side out of this hell pandemic, ICT innovation in Cambodia is taking one step forward the neighbouring countries, compare to pre-Covid-19).
If a hardworking student dedicated between 6 to 8 hours/day to learn from the these Online resources, that student would learn and gain enough knowledge comparable and not less than they learn from their normal classrooms with their teachers. However, such E-learning concept is very brand new, not only for Rong Vean village but also for all students across Cambodia. It requires high motivation, declines, strong willpower and perseverance as well as the resource persons to guide them through the online materials. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive such vibrating and reasoning feeling from those Rong Vean students. Several students in Rong Vean of grade 7, 8 and 9 told me that since school closed, they did not study. They did not have a chance to study. However, the students of primary school in Rong Vean, grade 1 to 6, they have a chance to study sometime because their teachers in the village went to the houses and teach them. Covid-19 virus affected the lives and studies of children in the rural village like Rong Vean.
Mentally and emotional effect: It’s, of course, quite dispirited not only for children and young students, but also for their parents. Most students must be frustrated because even if they were feeling relaxed because there is no school, they can’t go play around with their friends. Physical activities are essential and required for young people to balance their thinking processes. Students were missing their school activities and their friends. The fear and anxiety are lingering around them who know who could get infected or spread out the virus within the community.
Economic effect: Parents lost their business/jobs, as they need to stay home due to the coronavirus breakout. As you may know most of Rong Vean villagers went across the Thai border for labour forces. While many have to return home for doing nothing and got no income but daily expenses do not stop!.
What measurements have been taken to stop the spreading of the virus?
Cambodian government and local authorities have issued several guidelines and have been encouraging people to stay home, wear facemask if required to go out, washing hands every 45 minutes if possible, and practice social distancing. Anyone who has some symptoms like fever, high temperature or coughing must go to health centre or inform the local authorities. There are hotline number for suspected cases and emergency.
The central government issues a series of regulation and law enforcement:
- 07 March 2020: School closed down in Siamreap (both public and private) when the first case was found in Siamreap province (a Cambodian man got infected from his Japanese business partner)
- 15 March: Implement policy of 14 days quarantine for travellers that return to Cambodia.
- 09 March: closed down schools of the entire country.
- 26 March: Shutdown public transport/City buses
- Cancelled Khmer New Year celebration which was due from 13-16 April 2020.
- Travel banned across the country from 13-16 April, only allow people travelling within their own provincial territory. Traditionally, Khmer people travel back to their hometown to meet and celebrate with their family/relative/community.
- Closed down entertainment business, hotel/spa/massage/beer garden/cinema/theatre /sport club/Gym/Swimming pool/
- No gathering over 10 people / stay home is highly encouraging/ practise social distancing
- Restaurants/food chains are still open but strictly observed hygiene standard (i.e Check temperature before enter, alcohol/disinfectant spray, soup washing hands…)
- Government and offices observed strict hygiene rule before and after enter. 2 meters distance ensured during meeting for individual and wear facemask….
- Encouraging and practicing working from home for most of the jobs that can be done from distance.
- Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) created a task force to develop and implement the education responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Half May MoEYS initiated a research project to assess the effect of Covid-19 on schooling and the condition to Re-open schooling in Cambodia.
Medical staff of the Referral Hospital in Phnom Srok educate people that within 14 days if they have coughs, fevers or sore throats they should go to see a doctor or come to our hospital, and we will report them to the provincial health department. Since Covid-19 virus emerged in Cambodia, together with local authorities they went to educate the people in the village and visit house by house in the district. The basic health screening, including temperature checks, were limited to those who had returned from abroad, or as the Ministry of Health puts it, “individuals with a recent travel history.” Local authorities and medical staff continue their efforts to curbing the Covid-19 virus spreading in the community. At this stage, many villagers and students are aware of the virus and they continue to practices of washing hands, stay distance and home.