With another five COVID-19 positive cases being announced by the Ministry of Health Saturday, alarm bells have gone off s to the rising number of cases, 239, with most of them classified as imported cases.
Not only are they imported cases but are also cases involving Cambodian citizens who are returning home after being stranded in foreign countries for months.
Imported cases account for 215 of the total cases and have mostly inflicted Cambodians while locally discovered cases were at 24, also mostly Cambodians.
Cambodians became vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic not from local transmissions but likely already the virus in them when they took the flight to return and were asymptomatic. Given this scenario, the Ministry of Health was probably right in recommending the flight bans from Malaysia and Indonesia which came into effect Saturday, August 1, 2020, leaving hundreds, if not thousands of Malaysians and Cambodians stranded in Malaysia, especially.
They are either people born in Cambodia or have businesses and are long term residents of Cambodia with valid travel, and long stay documents.
The Ministry of Health has options to consider, which can be formulated together with the Malaysian Embassy here in Cambodia, the two ministries of Foreign Affairs and other relevant institutions.
The suggestion is a 28 days quarantine, 14 days prior to boarding including a test done on the first day of quarantine prior to boarding, on the 13th day and again a rapid test on the 14th day before check in. If negative, allow them to board, mount the flight.
On arrival in Cambodia, these tests are repeated but twice, on the day of arrival and on the 13th day. If there are no symptoms of the virus within this 28 days, it is hardly possible that the passengers are going to catch the virus because of the flight but rather from other sources such as not obeying the strict quarantine protocols, etc.
This can be a costly affair but given the fact that being stranded abroad, even in your own country for weeks or months, the former seems a more acceptable and workable choice.
Of course the test costs are to be borne by the passengers, including the quarantine costs. In this case, special arrangements can be worked out with hotels to provide affordable quarantine facilities and meals for this period and this also helps the hotels to generate revenue and keep employees occupied.
This suggestion could be given a thought by the powers that be. Ridiculous it may seem but it is still a better option.