Friday, June 18, 2021

Cambodia lifts lockdown for yellow zones despite climbing Covid infections

Human Rights Watch says residents of red zones are still suffering from lack of food and abusive police enforcement of public health measures.

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On Thursday, Cambodia ended a total Covid-19 lockdown in Phnom Penh after three weeks, even though the hoped for decrease in new cases has not transpired.

Areas experiencing particularly high infection rates will remain under lockdown, however.

Traffic quickly returned to some streets of the capital, Reuters is reporting.

The country has recorded one of the world’s smallest Covid-19 caseloads, but infections have climbed from about 500 in late February to nearly 18,000 now, with 114 deaths.

Authorities recorded 650 new cases and four deaths on Thursday.

While health experts have warned about lifting curbs too quickly, the lockdown had caused anger from some residents who called the distribution of food aid inadequate.

Authorities removed barricades on Wednesday night in yellow zones designated as safe for mobility, while red and orange zones with higher infection rates will remain under lockdown until May 12.

“I request that people should not be negligent, because we are living under a new way of life in the context of Covid-19,” Phnom Penh’s deputy governor Mean Chanyada told a news conference.

Yellow zones would see greater economic activity and traffic flows, but remain under a curfew from 8pm to 3am, he said.

As Phnom Penh opens up, authorities have also introduced new measures, such as only permitting 50% of workers in factories to return and giving priority to those vaccinated.

Other measures include more Covid-19 testing, more vaccinations in parts of the city with higher infection rates and a ban on alcohol sales.

The World Health Organization’s representative in Cambodia, Li Ailan, had warned on Sunday against easing curbs too soon.

She said in a message on Twitter: “Relaxing #COVID19 measures too fast and too soon means a possible surge.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a Wednesday press release that Phnom Penh red zones are causing hardship to more than 300,000 people. The residents of these areas face the country’s most restrictive lockdown measures, including a ban on leaving their homes except for specific medical reasons.

HRW report that many residents have not been able to get food, medicine, and other necessities for weeks. Local and international groups have expressed their readiness to provide assistance directly to those most affected, but the authorities have denied them access.

The humanitarian agency said the Cambodian government should immediately grant United Nations agencies and aid groups unrestricted access to residents under strict lockdown in Covid-19 red zones.

It said the UN Country Team and donor countries should also publicly call on the government to end abusive police enforcement of public health measures.

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