Cambodia bans state-organised events in capital over virus

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (AP) — Cambodia yesterday banned all state-organised events in the capital and a neighbouring province for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after a number of people connected to a Hungarian official’s visit tested positive.

The Interior Ministry did not elaborate on the ban on government events and meetings. It had already closed schools and cinemas in Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal province.

The decision came after the government struggled to trace people that came into contact with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who made a short visit to Cambodia on November 3 before testing positive on arrival later that day in neighbouring Thailand. All his meetings in Thailand were cancelled and he flew home on November 4.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has so far ruled out declaring a state of emergency, even as he and a number of his Cabinet ministers were forced into quarantine. Two Hungarian ambassadors, to Thailand and to Cambodia, are among those who have tested positive since Szijjarto’s visit.

Cambodia has tested more than 1,000 people who had connections to the visit, and four were confirmed to have contracted the virus – the Hungarian ambassador, a Cambodian bodyguard for the visiting minister, a ruling party lawmaker and a senior Agriculture Ministry official.

The Health Ministry said in a statement that it would distribute at Hu Sen’s recommendation about two million cloth masks to the Phnom Penh Municipality to be handed out to residents who cannot not afford to buy them. The capital has a population of about that size.