Virus forces closure of famous Angkor temples in Cambodia

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Cambodia is closing its most popular tourist destination, the centuries-old Angkor temple complex, for two weeks to help stem the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The shutdown of the world-famous site is the latest in a series of measures the country is taking after the number of coronavirus cases rose in February.

The Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the archaeological site, said it was important to temporarily prevent local and foreign tourists from visiting the temples to help fight the virus.

He said in a statement that visitors are banned from April 7 to 20.

The Angkor site in the northwestern province of Siem Reap attracted 2.2 million foreign tourists in 2019, but saw a sharp drop last year due to disruption caused by the pandemic.

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Cambodia allows tourists, but they must undergo quarantine.

The Health Ministry announced on Thursday 113 new local cases of coronavirus and two deaths. Cambodia has recorded a total of 3,028 cases, including 23 deaths.

The ministry traced the latest outbreak to a foreign resident who broke quarantine at a hotel and went to a nightclub in early February.

On February 20, the government announced the planned two-week closure of all public schools, cinemas, bars and entertainment venues in the capital, Phnom Penh.

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As the number of cases increased, closures have spread across the country for schools, gyms, concert halls, museums and other gathering places.

A former luxury hotel in the capital has been converted into a 500-room coronavirus hospital, and authorities are enforcing a new law imposing criminal penalties for violating health rules.

The use of face masks has been made compulsory in Phnom Penh and in four of the country’s most densely populated provinces.

The government tightened other restrictions earlier this month, including a two-week curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in Phnom Penh.

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It has also expanded its coronavirus vaccination campaign, targeting 1 million doses per month from April. By the end of March, around 400,000 people – about a third of whom were members of the armed forces – had been vaccinated.

As of the end of March, Cambodia had acquired more than 3.1 million doses of vaccine from China and under the COVAX initiative of the World Health Organization. Cambodia has a population of around 17 million.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on his social media this week that vaccinations are voluntary, but officials and members of the military could face dismissal if they do not get vaccinated.

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