PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered health officials on Tuesday to prepare to treat coronavirus patients at home, as the country’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak so far tests the capacity of its fragile healthcare system.
Cambodia had one of the world’s smallest coronavirus caseloads until six weeks ago, but an outbreak in late February has led to its first 22 COVID-19 deaths and a five-fold jump in cases to 2,824.
A total of 1,003 patients are currently being treated in hospital that are near capacity, Hun Sen said in an audio message shared widely on Tuesday and reported by local media.
“We can’t accept all patients in case that cases increase further,” Hun Sen said.
“We have fewer people recovered and many people being admitted for treatment and even if we set up a few more hospitals, it is not enough,” he said.
“Keep those with mild cases of COVID-19 at home for treatment,” he added.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the home treatment plan.
The government has restricted travels between provinces and cities, banned large gatherings and imposed a nighttime curfew in the capital Phnom Penh for two weeks from April 1.
Cambodia has passed a law that prescribe long jail terms for serious violations of health measures.
It also requires people to scan Quick Response (QR) codes before entering establishments. The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday said such logging of personal information would help the government’s surveillance practices, which it said were intrusive.
(The story corrects paragraph 3 to show number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital is 1,003, not 1,794)
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty)