Cambodia’s new virus rules restrain holiday celebrations

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodians marked their Independence Day holiday Monday, but new coronavirus restrictions kept them from celebrating at karaoke parlors, beer gardens, museums, cinemas and other entertainment venues which have been ordered shut until further notice.

Students in Phnom Penh, the capital, and the satellite town of Kandal will not return Tuesday to their schools, which were shut for two weeks by an Education Ministry order to contain the virus.

The new restrictions were issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday because Hungary’s foreign minister tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Cambodia last week.

Peter Szijjarto tested positive upon arrival in Thailand on Tuesday following a one-day Cambodia visit. He was placed in quarantine in Bangkok before leaving for Hungary on Wednesday.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Saturday that a Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto had tested positive for the coronavirus. A second round of tests on Monday discovered three more infected people among the 900 who were involved with Szijjarto’s visit: a lawmaker from Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, a senior Agriculture Ministry official, and Hungary’s ambassador to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Hun Sen and four Cabinet ministers went into quarantine because they met with Szijjarto the same day he tested positive. Hun Sen said he will stay quarantined for 14 days, and announced Monday on his Facebook page that he, his wife and other members of their household have all tested negative twice.

All of the people involved with the Hungarian foreign minister’s trip are to be tested four times during their 14-day quarantine period.

Education Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha issued a statement Monday saying Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium would close its gym and other facilities because the infected Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto also coached sports there.

In his Saturday audio message, Hun Sen said he would not declare a national or local state of emergency, or bar travel by people not involved, but urged people to observe Health Ministry guidelines.

Cambodia has reported a total of 297 cases of the coronavirus, with no deaths.

The Education Ministry said the school shutdown was necessary because it has been unable to collect enough information to determine if the parents of any students had direct or indirect contact with Szijjarto.

Schools throughout Cambodia reopened on Nov. 2 after being closed since March due to the coronavirus, but with limited class sizes and hours.

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This story has been corrected to show that Ros Soveacha is Education Ministry spokesperson, not education minister.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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