The Cambodian casino town of Sihanoukville has placed an indefinite ban on people entering or leaving the city as it scrambles to get on top of an outbreak of COVID-19.
The ban, announced by the Preah Sihanouk Province Hall on Friday, will see travel in and out of Sihanoukville halted until further notice, with only ambulances and trucks transporting goods granted an exemption. The vehicles will, however, be subject to close examination by authorities.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Health had reported 18 new cases of COVID-19 in Sihanoukville on Friday – all linked to a hotel quarantine breach in Phnom Penh on 20 February – and by Sunday the city’s cluster had grown to 95 people.
There are also 32 locations in Sihanoukville listed as COVID-19 hotspots including a number of hotels and casinos, while another 29 locations have been commandeered as quarantine facilities – among them hotels, apartments, casinos, buildings and shopping malls.
“This has to be done to allow the provincial administration to be able to put the infection cases under control as well as look for people who have been in contact with the patients and the hotspots,” the Province Hall said in a statement following news of the travel ban.
Cambodia had largely kept the global COVID-19 pandemic at bay in 2020, with just 378 confirmed cases for the entire year, but that number has more than doubled in the last two weeks alone with 477 cases now linked to this new cluster. The country’s largest wave to date is said to have started when four Chinese nationals bribed their way out of a quarantine hotel on 20 February and visited a series of nightclubs. Two of those Chinese nationals later tested positive for COVID-19.
The rapid spread of the virus saw Phnom Penh integrated resort NagaWorld last week suspend operations after 11 staff members tested positive.
The Khmer Times also reported over the weekend that authorities in Kandal Province, located 50km south of the capital have stopped 723 visitors and staff from leaving the Yong Yuan casino and placed them in quarantine after a guest linked to the 20 February event tested positive.
“Local authorities are on guard at this casino to ensure safety and did not allow anyone to exit the casino as it is under lockdown during the 14 days quarantine period,” said Kandal’s governor, Kong Sophorn.