Laos sees huge jump in Covid-19 cases, as Cambodia lockdown threatens food security | News | Eco-company
Laos saw its biggest jump on Monday in cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, since the pandemic began more than a year ago, as the impoverished nation widened a lockdown and added additional capacity in treatment centers to cope with the drastic increase in infections.
Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, director general of the communicable disease control department of the health ministry, told reporters at a press conference on Monday that authorities had tested nearly 2,700 people “and found that 113 of them were positive for Covid-19, bringing the national total to 436 cases and no deaths. “
He said 31 of the newly infected were from the capital Vientiane, while 54 were from Champassak province, 13 from Savannakhet province, seven from Bokeo province, two from Oudomxay province, two from Oudomxay province. from Phongsaly and one each from Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Xayaburi. and the provinces of Sekong.
The 113 new cases follow the announcement of 76 cases on Sunday and 88 cases on Saturday in the country with a population of around 7.2 million people.
Deputy health minister Phouthone Muongpak announced at Monday’s press conference that infections have been identified in 13 of Laos’ 17 provinces and the capital.
“The virus is also spreading rapidly in the capital and in the province of Champassak in the south,” he added.
The announcement came as a member of the national coronavirus task force told RFA’s Lao service that hospitals in the capital are nearly full.
“We are adding hospital beds and setting up field hospitals in Vientiane to prepare for the growing number of Covid-19 patients in the near future,” he said, on condition of anonymity.
An official at Vientiane Friendship Hospital – the main hospital treating Covid-19 patients in the capital, told RFA the number of beds at the facility had been increased to 300, from normal capacity of 100.
“Right now, only 80 beds are still available,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government added two more provinces – Luang Prabang and Oudomxay – to an existing order banning travel up to the district level.
The number of provinces included in the lockdown, which requires people to stay at home unless faced with an emergency, is now 15. The lockdown in Oudomxay province involves a curfew between 9:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Phonepaseuth Oumaphom, director of the sanitation and health promotion department of the health ministry, told RFA that the government hopes to immunize 22% of the country’s population, or about 1.5 million people, d ‘by the end of the year.
“So far, more than 126,000 have received their first dose of the vaccine, while 58,000 have received the second dose,” he said.
Undocumented worker agreement
Also on Monday, illegal migrant workers in Laos could start returning home from Thailand following an agreement reached by immigration services in neighboring countries over the weekend.
Under the agreement, workers will not be fined, charged or punished – as illegal migrants typically are – and will need to be quarantined for two weeks in their home province.
A member of the working group committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19 in Xayaburi province confirmed the agreement, adding that workers will not be responsible for covering the cost of their stay, food or expenses. any other expense during their mandatory quarantine period.
Some undocumented Lao workers in Thailand hailed the deal, with one in Bangkok saying that if he had the 10,000 Thai baht (US $ 320) he needed to return home, he would. would have already done.
However, a Lao worker from Thailand’s Pathum Thani province said he had no plans to return.
“I’m too scared of traveling and of Covid-19,” he says.
Laos, a landlocked nation, was largely spared the brunt of global infections in 2020, but suffered a devastating economic blow amid the pandemic. Tourist visits have plummeted and the incomes of Lao migrant workers working in Thailand have dropped dramatically.
Lockdown in Cambodia
In neighboring Cambodia, where the coronavirus also made little inroads in 2020, an epidemic that began in February is quickly spiraling out of control.
Last week, Cambodia broke its daily record for Covid-19 infections with nearly 700 cases, as the country’s death toll from the pandemic rose to 61 with the number of cases over 8000 people. As of Monday, the death toll had reached 79 and more than 10,500 infections had been recorded.
Cambodia’s economy – which relies heavily on textile production – has been battered by declining export demand and a series of lockdowns intended to stem the spread of the virus. Migrant workers from neighboring Thailand have also lost their jobs in lockdowns.
The drastic increase in infections led Prime Minister Hun Sen to issue a 14-day shutdown of all non-essential businesses in the capital Phnom Penh and neighboring Takhmao in Kandal province from April 15 to 28 and demand that both The combined 3 million inhabitants of the two cities either adhere to a strict curfew or, in some “red zones”, stay at home except in emergencies.
On Monday, the order was extended for a third week until May 5 and authorities said more time could be added if residents did not comply with the measures. Workers at nearly 230 factories in the region have been infected.
Residents of the affected red zone districts of Phnom Penh and Takhmao said they had not yet received any food or supplies promised by the government, despite the threat of being arrested if they left their homes, and say they are running out of supplies.
Hun Sen pledged to distribute 300,000 riel (US $ 75) per family to help alleviate the problem, but admitted on Monday that his government “did not have the mechanism to distribute it,” and said the money would be sent “at random” to these. in lockout areas.
Authorities have also threatened to fine anyone found in violation of the lockdown of 1 million to 20 million riel ($ 250 to $ 4,950) and to punish them with six months to five years in prison. More than 120 people have been arrested, many of whom have been arrested and charged with disobeying the curfew and lockdown since April 15.
Police in the capital region have used batons and sticks to hunt and beat people wandering outside their homes in recent days – videos of which have been released by local authorities via posts on their Facebook accounts .
Threat of “ famine ”
Lack of access to food prompted banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) acting leader Sam Rainsy to call for help from the International Red Cross (IRC) and the World Food Program (PAM) in a message posted Monday on his Facebook account. “For the people of Phnom Penh threatened with famine” following a “poorly designed and poorly executed” lockdown.
“The food supply has suddenly fallen to zero for most people, especially the poor who make up the vast majority of the population and who even in normal times live from hand to mouth,” wrote the head of the country. the opposition, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a series of accusations and convictions that he says are politically motivated.
“Under the current imprisonment and the absolute ban on leaving the house, they very quickly fall prey to malnutrition and starvation.”
In an email response to a request from RFA, a WFP spokesperson said information on the effects of the Cambodia lockdown on the food security of the most vulnerable groups affected by the measures “remains limited at this time.” due to the rapid -changing nature of government mitigation efforts and a lack of access to red zones.
“WFP and its partners have also advocated to ensure access to affordable, safe and nutritious food for the most vulnerable groups and reiterated this message in relation to the locked areas, highlighting the specific nutritional needs of certain groups such as pregnant and breastfeeding women. mothers or the elderly, who will have to be addressed if the measures are prolonged in time, ”said the spokesperson.
Ensuring worker safety
Despite the ongoing austerity measures, labor rights officials told RFA on Monday that Cambodia would not be able to prevent the epidemic from spreading if the relevant stakeholders did not ensure the safety of workers in the area. ‘factory.
CENTRAL labor rights program manager Khun Tharo said the risk of infection for factory workers “is not new,” despite a long-standing appeal from civil society organizations and unions to solve the problem by improving safety measures in the workplace.
He said the government and factory owners remained indifferent until the virus spread to hundreds of workers.
In addition, Khun Tharo said congestion of factory workers in small trucks when going to work, as well as not spacing workers out when entering factories, continues to occur. daily. Factories also lack an adequate amount of disinfectant and masks for workers, he said.
RFA’s attempts to seek clarification from Ken Loo, General Secretary of the Cambodia Garment Manufacturers Association (GMAC), Heng Sour, Ministry of Labor spokesman, Phay Siphan, government spokesman, remained. unanswered Monday.
This story was published with permission from Radio Free Asia.
Thanks for reading the end of this story!
We would be grateful if you would consider becoming a member of the EB Circle. This keeps our stories and resources free to all, and it also supports independent journalism dedicated to sustainable development. For a small donation of S $ 60 per year, your help would make such a big difference.
Find out more and join the EB circle