People wearing protective face masks rush to buy groceries at a fresh market ahead of a citywide lockdown during the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Image Credit: Reuters

Phnom Penh: Cambodia brought in a coronavirus lockdown in Phnom Penh and a satellite district of the capital on Thursday in a bid to contain a spike in coronavirus cases in a country that up until recently had largely managed to contain infections.

Under the lockdown, which Prime Minister Hun Sen announced late on Wednesday, most people are banned from leaving home except for going to work, to buy food or for medical treatment.

Police manning checkpoints on Thursday in Phnom Penh asked motorists to show work documents and identity cards in order to pass, television footage on local media showed.

Avoid calamity

In a voice message posted on his official Facebook page, Hun Sen warned Cambodia was on the brink of “death valley” and urged people to work together to avoid calamity.

“The purpose of the lockdown is to combat the spread of COVID-19 and this closure is not a way to make people die or suffer,” he said.

The Southeast Asian country still has one of the world’s smallest coronavirus caseloads, but an outbreak that started in late February saw cases spike almost ten-fold to 4,874 within two months and the first deaths recorded with 36 fatalities Hours before the lockdown, Hun Sen’s message was leaked on social media, prompted panic buying of food and other goods in shops by residents in Phnom Penh and the nearby Takhmau area, where a lockdown has also been imposed.