Phnom Penh, Sep 26 (IANS): Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that fresh Covid-19 outbreaks have hit almost half of the Buddhist pagodas in the capital city of Phnom Penh.
"Yesterday, medical teams took samples from Buddhist monks and laypeople at all the pagodas in Phnom Penh for testing. As a result, Covid-19 cases had been found in almost half of the pagodas," he said in a voice message released on Saturday.
There are 151 Buddhist pagodas in the capital city, according to the Ministry of Cults and Religions.
Hun Sen said the Southeast Asian nation has more than 4,000 pagodas across the country and the samples of monks and laypeople outside Phnom Penh have not yet been collected for Covid19 testing.
The Covid-19 outbreaks at pagodas occurred after the traditional Pchum Ben festival, or honouring-the-dead festival, which began on September 22.
In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, the government on Friday decided to suspend the festival, warning that any large gatherings at pagodas could put the country at high risk of a large-scale outbreak triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Pchum Ben festival is the second-largest in Cambodia after the Khmer New Year.
During the celebration, devotees visit pagodas to make offerings to monks in order to dedicate to their relatives and loved ones who had passed away.
They believe that everything they offer to the monks will reach their dead ancestors or relatives and in return, the dead will bless them with luck, health and wealth.
Cambodia has so far registered 108,257 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 2,218 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.
The country launched a Covid-19 vaccination drive in February. Till date, it has administered at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccines to 12.95 million people, or 80.9 per cent of its 16-million population, the Ministry said.
Of them, 10.77 million, or 67.3 per cent, had been fully vaccinated with both required shots, and 860,551, or 5.37 per cent, had received a booster dose, it added.
In his message on Saturday, Hun Sen said vaccines alone are not enough to stop the spread of the virus, calling on people to continue complying with health guidelines laid down by the government, particularly the '3 do's and 3 don'ts'.
The 3 do's are wearing a face mask, washing hands regularly, and maintaining physical distancing of 1.5 meters, and the 3 don'ts are avoiding confined and enclosed spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and avoiding touching each other.