Authorities in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh have ordered a strict curfew as part of a bid to stem the spread of the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak, but human rights groups called the measure “unrealistic,” saying it will cause legal issues for people dealing with emergencies.
The government issued a sub-decree on Wednesday suspending all “unnecessary” business, gatherings, and travel between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. until April 14 to prevent further transmission of an outbreak that has seen 21 people who had tested positive for COVID-19—the disease caused by the coronavirus—die since February.
The decree includes exceptions that allow people to buy food, get tested for COVID-19, get vaccinated against the coronavirus, receive medical treatment, or attend to a family member who is “seriously ill” or has died.
Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng told RFA’s Khmer Service that employees who work night shifts must have an official certificate confirming their working hours and must always carry a company identification card to show to authorities.
“Companies must issue official permission letters to their staff,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“Businesspeople who need to travel to places such as hotels must return to their homes at night with a certificate confirming that they have the right to do so.”
Khuong Sreng added that all companies are responsible for their employees’ actions and could face legal action, including fines or license suspension, if they are found to be in violation of the curfew.
“The head of the institution is responsible in case staffers leave work and go drinking, which will cause disorder and does not comply with the curfew ordered by City Hall,” he said.
“If we investigate and find out that this is truly a problem, it may lead to fines or the closure of companies.”
Members of the public who require travel during the curfew must inform their commune chief or local authorities in advance, Khoung Sreng said.
Law enforcement has been ordered to confiscate the vehicles of people who disobey the curfew and place them in 14-day quarantine at their homes, he added.
The Ministry of Health confirmed two COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, bringing the country’s official count to 16 since early March and weeks after the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the coronavirus a global pandemic. Five other people who were confirmed positive for COVID-19 have died over the same period, although the government claims their deaths were the result of complications from pre-existing health conditions.
The ministry also announced 37 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,477. While Cambodia has remained relatively unscathed by the virus, it reported a daily record late last month of 105 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country’s total number of infections to nearly triple that of when the latest outbreak was first detected in February.
Human rights groups expressed concern over the curfew Thursday, saying the measure was “unrealistic” for people who need to leave their homes at night in case of emergency.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of human rights for local group Licadho, called on the government to allow certain exceptions for the curfew.
“Regarding people with urgent needs, it will be difficult to inform the authorities or their commune chief and receive permission to leave home, especially in the middle of the night,” he said.
“There need to be exceptions in the case of an emergency related to health or family problems.”
Residents living in areas of Cambodia locked down as part of a bid to restrict the spread of the coronavirus have urged the government to provide special aid packages to help them during the outbreak.
Many Cambodians are now struggling to pay their debts and meet the costs of rent, utility bills, and gasoline amid Cambodia’s latest outbreak of COVID-19 after an already year-long shutdown of the economy that killed the tourism and entertainment industries.
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