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Cambodia reports its first COVID-19 death, a year into the pandemic

Buddhist monks in Cambodia
Buddhist monks receive alms from devotees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Wednesday.
(Heng Sinith / Associated Press)

Cambodia on Thursday confirmed its first death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than a year ago as it battles a new local coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds of people.

A 50-year-old man who was infected last month while working as a driver for a Chinese company in coastal Sihanoukville died at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on Thursday morning, the Cambodian Health Ministry said in a statement.

Cambodia has confirmed only 1,163 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began.

According to the Health Ministry, the new outbreak was traced to a foreign resident who broke quarantine in a hotel and went to a nightclub in early February. That caused a wave of infections and led the government Feb. 20 to announce a two-week closure of all public schools, cinemas, bars and entertainment areas in Phnom Penh, the capital.

The government has since extended the closures for two more weeks for schools, gyms, concert halls, museums and other entertainment venues in Phnom Penh, nearby Kandal province and the coastal province of Sihanoukville.

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On Thursday, the Health Ministry said 39 cases were reported from local transmission.

Millions are at risk of defaulting on loans as the coronavirus pandemic halts Cambodia’s recovery from decades of war and poverty.

As the outbreak grows, a defunct luxury hotel in the capital has been converted into a 500-room COVID-19 hospital, and authorities are enforcing a new law imposing criminal punishments for violating health rules.

The country began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in February with 600,000 doses of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm vaccine. It also received 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month that were donated by and produced in India.


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