Vietnamese in Cambodia anxious amid Covid lockdown

Worried about the fresh outbreak in Cambodia, many Vietnamese have seen their livelihoods and incomes severely hit by the spreading virus.

Hong Nhung, living in Phnom Penh, has lived in fear for days as Cambodia sees a spike in new Covid-19 cases.

"The pandemic is getting more complicated here, the daily number of new cases is over 100 and there are deaths each day," Nhung, employed at a city spa, told VnExpress.

Amid the fresh outbreak, the Cambodian government launched a coronavirus lockdown in Phnom Penh on April 15.

Under lockdown, also imposed on a satellite district of the capital, most people are banned from leaving home except for going to work, to buy food, or for medical treatment.

Police manning checkpoints on Thursday in Phnom Penh asked motorists to show work documents and identity cards in order to pass, local media footage revealed.

Cambodia, lockdown, pandemic, Covid-19, Vietnamese

Garment factory workers and staff wait to receive China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine at an industrial park in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 7, 2021. Photo by Reuters.

In a message posted on his official Facebook page, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Cambodia was on the brink of "death valley" and urged people to work together to avoid calamity.

"Those having no masks are not allowed to enter markets since local authorities check on them constantly," Nhung said.

The Vietnamese woman said locals had rushed to stock up on food before the lockdown, with each household now allowed one or two members to buy food and medicine up to three times per week.

Hun Sen has promised his government would not let a shortage of rice, meat and vegetables hit Phnom Penh during the lockdown. Local authorities added they would keep a watchful eye on those trying to sell food at higher prices.

But a host of people have stockpiled food and necessities, overwhelming markets and supermarkets and hiking prices.

"Normally, ten eggs cost 5,000 riel ($1.24), but now cost 12,000 riel ($2.96). Beef prices have also risen, while some food is out of stock," Nhung said.

"Like many other Vietnamese in Cambodia, I’m worried that if I contract the virus and return to Vietnam, my family and hometown would be affected. But if I stay here, I will earn nothing amid the outbreak," she lamented.

Nguyen Tien, telecommunications worker, is also living in fear.

"My life and livelihood are severely affected, we cannot meet our clients and must work from home," said Tien, who has stockpiled food for the last month.

According to Tien, many Vietnamese yearn for home because of the outbreak and their badly-hit livelihoods.

"Nonetheless, the lockdown makes it difficult to travel. People must obtain government approval before traveling to another province," Tien said.

Tran Cong, residing in Bavet City, Sway Rieng, located next to Vietnam, also shared Tien’s anxiety.

"My job and life are hit by the outbreak, my income has shrunk," Cong said.

This is the first time for Cambodia to impose a Covid-19 lockdown in Phnom Penh since the beginning of the pandemic. As of April 17, over 5,200 people have been infected. Most recent cases comprise textile workers and vendors in local markets.

The Southeast Asian country still has one of the world's smallest coronavirus caseloads, but an outbreak that started in late February saw infections spike almost ten-fold to 4,874 within two months and 36 fatalities.

Last week, hospitals in Phnom Penh stated they had run out of beds and would have to use halls and schools as field hospitals.

"Hospitals are overwhelmed, vaccines have not been widely administered, I don’t know what would happen if I got infected," Tien lamented.

Cambodia, with a population of 16.5 million, has administered 1.4 million doses, with 280,000 people having received their second jabs.

Tien said Vietnamese in the country can register for vaccination at the Vietnam Embassy in Phnom Penh with their passports, visas and work permits.

"I hope the embassy would administer the vaccination for Vietnamese in Cambodia soon," Tien maintained.

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