Cambodia’s Angkor site shut for two weeks to curb coronavirus

PHNOM PENH (AP) — Cambodia is shutting its most popular tourist destination, the centuries-old Angkor site, to visitors for two weeks to help curb the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

The closing of the world-famous site is the latest in a slew of measures the country is taking after the number of coronavirus cases surged in February.

The Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the archaeological site, said temporarily stopping local and foreign tourists from visiting the site is important to help combat the virus. It said in a statement dated on Wednesday that visitors are banned from April 7 through April 20.

The Angkor site, in the northwestern province of Siem Reap, attracted 2.2 million foreign tourists in 2019, but experienced a sharp falloff last year due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Cambodia allows in tourists, but they must undergo a quarantine.

The Health Ministry yesterday announced 113 new local cases of the coronavirus and two deaths. Cambodia recorded a total of 3,028 cases, including 23 deaths.

A view from outside Angkor Wat is seen in Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia. PHOTO: AP

The ministry traced the latest outbreak to a foreign resident who broke quarantine in a hotel and went to an entertainment venue in early February. The government on February 20 announced a planned two-week closure of all public schools, cinemas and entertainment venues in the capital Phnom Penh.

As the number of cases rose, the closures were extended throughout the country for schools, gyms, concert halls, museums and other gathering places.

A defunct luxury hotel in the capital has been converted into a 500-room coronavirus hospital, and the authorities are enforcing a new law imposing criminal punishment for violating health rules.

The use of face masks was made mandatory in Phnom Penh and four of the country’s most densely populated provinces.

The government stepped up other restrictions at the start of this month, including a two-week, 8pm to 5am curfew in Phnom Penh.

It also broadened its coronavirus vaccination campaign, targetting one million doses a month beginning in April. Through the end of March, about 400,000 people – about one-third of them members of the armed forces – had received vaccinations.

By the end of March, Cambodia acquired over 3.1 million doses of vaccines from China and through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative. Cambodia has a population of about 17 million.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said this week on his social media channels that vaccinations are voluntary, but that civil servants and members of the military would be at risk of being dismissed if they fail to be inoculated.