Cambodian PM isolating after Covid outbreak linked to Hungarian minister


Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, has gone into quarantine and the country has locked down schools, bars and cinemas in the capital, Phnom Penh, and a surrounding province, after an outbreak of coronavirus cases linked to a visit by the Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó.

Szijjártó made a short visit to Cambodia on 3 November as part of a planned trade tour to the region, then tested positive for Covid-19 when he arrived in Thailand later the same day. All his meetings were cancelled and he flew home the next day on a private plane.

Since then, the trip has been linked to at least four cases of coronavirus in Cambodia, where at least 1,000 people connected with the visit have been tested, including Hun Sen and his wife. Four cabinet ministers were also quarantined after meeting Szijjártó.

The country has largely escaped the ravages of the global pandemic through strict entry and quarantine requirements, with only 301 infections and no deaths recorded. With a weak and badly funded healthcare system, Cambodia could face a devastating toll if the disease took hold.

Authorities appear to be taking no chances, shutting down schools in the capital and surrounding Kandal province for two weeks, after the education ministry said it was not able to collect enough information about students who had direct or indirect contact with Szijjártó.

Schools across the country had only reopened last Monday, after being closed since March. In the same area, in and around Phnom Penh, the government banned all state-organised events and shut bars and cinemas for two weeks.

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Thai authorities also confirmed that a Hungarian diplomat who shared a car and a meal with the minister had tested positive; they said 16 other people who came in contact with him tested negative. The country has reported 3,847 infections and 600 deaths.

Cambodia coronavirus cases

Hungary has reported an increase in the number of cases since September with more than 4,000 new daily infections and record casualties in recent days. The foreign ministry said Szijjártó had tested negative before his departure for Cambodia, Reuters reported.

In photos of a meeting with Hun Sen and other senior politicians none of the participants appeared to be wearing masks. At the time, Szijjártó described his country as a “bridge to Europe” for Cambodia, the Diplomat reported.



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