Mar 22nd, 2021 03/22/21 | News

COVID-19 In CCF Community

6 CCF community members including 81-year-old and two month old baby test positive for virus as emergency measures introduced to protect children and families

CCF has introduced emergency measures to protect children and families in Steung Meanchey communities after six people tested positive for COVID-19 following the largest community outbreak in Cambodia.

Among the six positive cases confirmed on 21 March are one of CCF’s grannies, aged 81, and a two month old baby.

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All six have been taken to a specialist coronavirus unit set up in a hotel in Phnom Penh, where they are receiving treatment free of charge by the Cambodian government.

A further 16 CCF students are in quarantine and have been tested for the virus. So far, four of the students have tested negative in a first COVID-19 test.

The area in Steung Meanchey where the cases were reported, Domnak Thom village, near CCF’s dental clinic, has been locked down with authorities monitoring the situation and testing as required.

Efforts are focused on containing the outbreak and preventing it spreading to other communities where CCF students, children and families live.


“The staff at Cambodian Children's Fund have been working round the clock to help the surrounding communities,” said Scott Neeson, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director.

“Regular decontamination and an ongoing supply of masks, alcohol spray, and spot checks will, we hope, minimise the risk to this very vulnerable population.”

It is believed the outbreak is related to a man who also lived in the Domnak Thom area. A worker for the city’s garbage disposal company, Cintri, he reported having a fever before travelling outside Phnom Penh where it was confirmed he had COVID-19.

All six cases had been quarantined at home with 18 other families after being contact traced by Cambodia’s Ministry of Health.

CCF is providing food packages and hygiene kits, including face masks and sanitizer, to families in the area and other communities where CCF children and families live. CCF’s Community Outreach team is also on the ground offering support, updates and health advice.

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CCF has launched an appeal for donations at this critical time to fund immediate emergency and long-term help for children and families. Contributions can be made by clicking here

With Cambodia’s borders closed again, many families who sell recyclables have lost their incomes and means of putting food on the table, forcing them further into debt to feed their children and survive day-to-day.

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All the cases followed the first serious community transmission of COVID-19 in Cambodia, which began on 20 February.

As of March 23, there have been 1,788 cases detected in Cambodia, with 1,242 of these linked to the 20 February event.

Five deaths have been recorded so far, the latest announced on 23 March by the Ministry of Health. According to local media, the fourth patient - a 75-year-old retired physician suffering from underlying health conditions including high blood pressure - died while undergoing treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, just hours after another 71 new cases linked to the 20 February community outbreak were reported.

Until the 20 February event, Cambodian had been successfully containing the spread of COVID-19, seeing very few cases compared to other countries, where the virus has swept through causing devastating infection rates.

Throughout 2020, as the global pandemic took hold, there were only 450 cases recorded in Cambodia.

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Students are required to collect schoolwork from a designated pick-up point, with mandatory masks

— Scott Neeson

This all changed in February following an alleged breach of quarantine involving four women staying in mandatory hotel isolation in Phnom Penh. As several people tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after, the Cambodian Ministry of Health reacted swiftly, shutting down nightclubs and apartment blocks linked to cases.

A track and trace system was launched in Cambodia and businesses such as bars, casinos, gyms and museums were closed as a precautionary measure.

As case numbers rose, all schools in Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces were closed on 23 February.

All CCF schools remain closed with students studying online or through distance learning packs, studying at home in the community.

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“Students are required to collect schoolwork from a designated pick-up point, with mandatory masks, temperature checks and hand gel,” said Scott Neeson.

The Phnom Penh outbreak also spread to Sihanoukville, a popular travel destination and port city on the south-west coast of Cambodia.

COVID-19 has since been identified in at least eight provinces in Cambodia.

In a bid to stem the spread, the Cambodian government has implemented tough legal restrictions with penalties for those who break restrictions.

Wearing a mask in public places is now compulsory. Those not wearing a mask can be fined.

A new law, passed on 11 March, also sets out fines and prison sentences for breaches of quarantine, escape from COVID-19 treatment centres and anyone who knowingly spreads COVID-19 in Cambodia.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID 19 in Cambodia is quarantined in a Ministry of Health facility until they have recovered. Those found to have direct contact with a positive case but who test negative are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

All CCF communities have maintained strict quarantine controls since the February outbreak, with a security delegate at each, and supplies of face masks, sanitizer and temperature checks, said Scott Neeson.

Water and food are also being delivered daily. CCF communities are being decontaminated two to three times a week by CCF staff. All non-essential CCF staff are working from home.

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Anyone presenting with COVID-19 symptoms at CCF’s medical clinic in the community are immediately referred to the local public hospital.

Cambodia began a vaccine roll out earlier this month. Vaccines were received through the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), a global initiative to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, and via donations from countries including China and India.

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Vaccinations are managed by the Ministry of Health. NGO medical clinics such as CCF’s do not have direct access to vaccines.

Select clinics in Phnom Penh have started vaccinating people, focusing on those who are over 60 and/or have underlying health conditions.

Further shipments of vaccines, including the AstraZeneca vaccine co-developed by the University of Oxford in the UK, are expected next month.

CCF’s Community Outreach team is working with community members to register for the vaccine. This includes grannies and grandpas in CCF’s Granny Program, who are more vulnerable to infection and risk of serious health problems should they become infected.

Prioritisation and delivery is organised by select Ministry of Health hospitals and clinics. There is no time frame yet for when CCFs communities might be allocated.

Written by

Kate Ginn

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