The global COVID-19 outbreak is a concern shared by many people around the world. According to media reports, the Chinese government has responded by locking down Wuhan city in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected in January, and urging citizens to self-quarantine.
Some countries like the United States, Mauritius and Indonesia have evacuated their citizens out of China and cancelled flights, while Prime Minister Hun Sen last month noted the Kingdom’s relationship with China is business as usual.
According to the Associations of Cambodian Students in China, there are approximately 2,400 Cambodian students in China, with more supposed to join. Khmer Times’ Marie Lamy spoke to students who had travel plans cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19.
According to the CPU China Pharmaceutical University, an international student was warned by the university and placed under quarantine after allegedly returning to China without consent. The university said the student allegedly jumped a gate and entered his dorm.
He says staying within the four walls for his dorm for long periods is a struggle, but notes that doing so is the safest choice.
He says he cooks most meals as it is safer than eating outside.
“Before [the outbreak], I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the campus’ canteen, but now I regularly cook,” Mr Chanserey says. “The supermarket on campus opens three days a week from 1pm to 4pm. Stalls sell eggs and vegetables, but a few types of meat.”
He says his mother is worried about safety in China, adding she has asked him to return home. However, Mr Chanserey says he is apprehensive about using public transportation at the moment and travelling to the closest airport would take one and a half hours via metro.
“Going outside is taking a risk – I do not want to take that risk because I do not know who is sick,” he says. “I would rather stay in my dormitory and wait until things go back to normal.”
COVID-19 has disrupted many events around the world. Concerts, seminars, marathons and conferences have been indefinitely postponed.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, general director of the World Health Organization, said: “COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic.”
Mr Hun Sen last week during a graduation ceremony said: “Do not fear COVID-19, have the courage to combat it. Please transform fear into an opportunity to strengthen hygiene practices.”
“Masks, hand sanitisers and food supplies were sent to students in need,” ACSC president Nop Veasna said. “We are always in touch with companies who can help. We are looking for businesses in China or Cambodia who are able to donate anything that can be useful.”
In a recent interview with Khmer Times, Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian said the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh is working with local health departments to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in the Kingdom. He said the embassy will update Chinese nationals in Cambodia on the latest COVID-19 information.
Ms Sonya says she felt excited when her university in Phnom Penh announced in December she would be going to China to study in the Beijing Foreign Language University as part of a foreign exchange programme.
“The programme was scheduled to start in February, but the [Chinese] embassy informed me that the programme has been postponed indefinitely,” Ms Sonya says, noting she is now at home waiting for approval from the Chinese embassy.
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