Timeline: How COVID-19 spread in Cambodia and how it has affected the real estate sector

April 13, 2020, 3:27 p.m.

(Cambodia's real estate sector is expected to slow down as projects face delays due to fears of COVID-19. Supplied)

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has spread to over 170 countries and has infected several hundred thousands of people across the world in a matter of weeks. As part of nationwide measures to contain the outbreak, governments have put in place strict quarantine measures to the general public; severely constricting conventional ways of doing business.

Cambodia’s real estate industry is starting to feel the strain as new renters and buyers are slow to come by.  Several agencies have suspended operations while others have opted to continue working from home. This outbreak has certainly highlighted the importance of online property marketing in the time of COVID-19.

To understand how we got here, let's take a look at the events that transpired in the past few months.

Timeline of COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia

December 31, 2019 - China reports a cluster of 41 cases of Pneumonia-like sickness in Wuhan. The World Health Organization is alerted by the Chinese authorities of a new and highly-infectious virus spreading in the Hubei province.


January 10, 2020 - Ministry of Health deploys scanners and personnel at international airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville to detect early symptoms of the novel coronavirus (now known as COVID-19): fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.

(The Ministry of Health has deployed several medical scanners and personnel to monitor incoming visitors for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Photo by Chor Sokunthea from Khmer Times.)

January 11, 2020 - China announces the first death from COVID-19 indicating to the world that the disease is fatal.

January 13, 2020 - The Cambodian government issues travel warnings to citizens with plans on going to Wuhan or any part of the Hubei province.

January 15, 2020 - The first case in Thailand prompts Cambodian border authorities to employ scanners and personnel to monitor land-crossings.

January 24, 2020 - Wuhan is officially locked down by Chinese authorities. Cambodian authorities issue high alerts for COVID-19. Those who were able to leave the Hubei province are required to fill out health forms upon arrival in Cambodia.

January 28, 2020 - Cambodia confirms its first case from a Chinese tourist visiting Sihanoukville.

January 29, 2020 - Government numbers indicate a drop in tourist arrivals amid COVID-19 fears. Several real estate projects in Sihanoukville face delays as fears mount of a wider infection.

January 30, 2020 - PM Hun Sen directs the government not to ban flights from China as the government should treat those who are infected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Unlocking much needed medical networks and resources to combat the spread of the virus. Confirmed cases in China amount to 7,700 while reported deaths are at 170.

February 1, 2020 - Chinese national who was first diagnosed in COVID-19 in Sihanoukville on the road to recovery; thanking Cambodian doctors for treating him.

(Prime Minister Hun Sen shows solidarity with China during the height of the outbreak through a last-minute visit. TVK)

February 6, 2020 - Prime Minister Hun Sen flew to Beijing, China to show support during the height of COVID-19 in the country. At the time, confirmed cases in China number at around 28,000 with at least 560 reported deaths.

February 7, 2020 - Chinese national, the first case of COVID-19 in Cambodia to be discharged after repeated tests are negative of the virus.

February 10, 2020 - First case of COVID-19 in Cambodia officially cured and discharged.

February 12, 2020 - MS Westerdam, a European cruise ship is allowed to dock in Sihanoukville after being turned away by 5 countries due to 20 suspected cases on the ship.

(Onlookers take sight of MS Westerdam docked in one of Sihanoukville’s ports. Photo by Chor Sokunthea from Khmer Times.)

February 13, 2020 - 2,257 passengers (1,455 guests and 802 crew) of MS Westerdam to be tested for COVID-19 infections before being allowed to disembark. Passports were also checked to ensure no one traveled mainland China in the past 14 days. Passengers will then be sent home via charter flights once cleared.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanks Cambodian authorities for its humanitarian act of allowing MS Westerdam to dock.

February 14, 2020 - Tests indicate the first batch of MS Westerdam's passengers cleared of COVID-19 including the 20 who were suspected to be showing symptoms. Passengers were allowed to disembark in Sihanoukville port and begin preparing to fly home to their respective home countries.

February 17, 2020 - Some 500 passengers of MS Westerdam have already left the Kingdom for their home countries while those who are still waiting for their test results and still show no symptoms of COVID-19. Once cleared, they will be allowed to leave the Kingdom.

Xinhua reports total infections in China totaled to 68,000 cases and 1,600 deaths due to COVID-19.

Japan sends medical supplies to Cambodia to help combat the spread of COVID-19

February 18, 2020 - One American passenger from MS Westerdam test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Malaysia.

February 19, 2020 - Testing for the remaining passenger and crew of MS Westerdam starts wrapping up. Once fully cleared, MS Westerdam will sail to the Philippines.

February 21, 2020 - American from MS Westerdam who arrived in Malaysia after departing Cambodia is found to be negative of COVID-19 according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States. All passengers of MS Westerdam declared "LOW RISK" of COVID-19 by international health authorities.

More than 1,000 passengers of MS Westerdam have left the Kingdom since being allowed to dock in Sihanoukville.

PM states no diplomatic tension between Cambodia and Malaysia regarding passengers from MS Westerdam testing positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Malaysia.

Vietnamese authorities require Cambodian and Laotian visitors to have a health check-up at the border before being allowed into Vietnam.

(MS Westerdam passengers who tested negative for the virus are allowed to leave the cruise ship and prepare to leave for their home countries. AKP)

February 23, 2020 - All former Westerdam passengers and crew who were tested for COVID-19 have been found to not have the viral infection, according to Holland America, CDC. AHPPC, WHO, and the Cambodian Health Ministry. MS Westerdam to move ports on the 25th of February.

February 26, 2020 - Cambodian government sends 300,000 surgical masks and protective suits to China to help combat the epidemic in the country.

COVID-19 has spread to the rest of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, North America, and Europe infecting more than 80,000 people, the majority of which are located in China. This has prompted private companies, and some governments, to implement work-from-home strategies.

MS Westerdam leaves Sihanoukville port and sets for the Philippines.

The government predicts national GDP growth would not reach 6.5% as previously projected due to the global outbreak of COVID-19

March 2, 2020 - The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation has revealed that the outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in the drop of tourist arrivals in the Kingdom.

The WHO has recorded 85,000 confirmed cases and 2,924 deaths across the world, mostly in China.

March 5, 2020 - The Health Ministry quarantined 4 people who came in direct contact with a 40-year-old Japanese national, who reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Japan. The Japanese passenger in question boarded a Vietnam Airlines flight from Siem Reap province to Ho Chi Minh city before taking a connecting flight to Japan on March 3.

PM Hun Sen announces government budgets cuts up to 50% to raise public money to combat COVID-19 spread in the Kingdom.

(Cambodian authorities track down over 40 Cambodians who came in contact with the Japanese tourist who tested positive for COVID-19. Photo by Fresh News.)

March 6, 2020 - 40 other Cambodians in Siem Reap underwent self-quarantine after being identified to having contact with the Japanese national who was positive for COVID-19. Experts from WHO begin working on the ground with local health authorities in Siem Reap to prepare for more COVID-19 cases.

March 7, 2020 - Of the 4 people put under mandatory quarantine, one tested positive for COVID-19 becoming the 2nd recorded case of the virus in the Kingdom. The Ministry of Health increased efforts to track down all known persons who came into contact with newly confirmed cases.

March 8, 2020 - Global count of confirmed COVID-19 cases reach the 100,000-mark.

The Finance Ministry announced that the government is prepared to spend $400 million to combat the spread of the virus through the purchase of relevant medical equipment.

March 9, 2020 - PM Hun Sen ordered authorities to cancel Angkor Sankranta festivities scheduled to be held in April during Khmer New Year to prevent the spread of the virus. Schools in Siem Reap begin closing to protect children and their families.

March 10, 2020 - As Cambodia braces for new cases, other countries such as South Korea, Italy, and Iran have started seeing confirmed cases rise exponentially. China vows to send help to vulnerable countries, such as Cambodia in tackling COVID-19.

March 11, 2020 - 3 more cases of COVID-19 found on Viking Cruise Journey, all of them British nationals who were put into quarantine at Kampong Cham Provincial Referral Hospital. The patients were all aboard the Viking Cruise Journey from Ho Chi Minh city that docked in Phnom Penh on March 7. This brings Cambodia’s total infection to 5 confirmed cases.

All of Viking Cruise Journey's 62 passengers and crew have all been put into quarantine and their samples sent for testing in the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh.

(Medical professionals are on-site after Viking Cruise Journey is docked and quarantined in Kampong Cham. Photo by Chor Sokunthea from Khmer Times.)

March 13, 2020 - 1 Canadian and 1 Belgian tourist tested positive for COVID-19 and have been quarantined in the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. Cambodia now has a total of 7 COVID-19 confirmed cases.

March 14, 2020 - Phnom Penh's Canadian International School closed after one of its staff tested positive for COVID-19 after coming back from his trip to Thailand.

Rising COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom prompt the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to push e-learning classes. Some schools and universities in the country have closed with most considering temporary closure to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The private sector in Cambodia began trials of work-from-home schemes as more people opt to self-quarantine to avoid catching the virus. This puts significant strain on conventional ways of doing business in major urban centers like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. 

The Cambodian government declares a ban on foreigners coming from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States for a period of 30 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These countries are reported to have confirmed cases numbers in the hundreds - and are growing every day. More work-from-home schemes are adopted by companies and shift their focus to online marketing as an increasing number of their market is stuck at home.

March 15, 2020 - 8th case of COVID-19 in Cambodia confirmed from a Frenchman who is now quarantined in the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital

March 16, 2020 - COVID-19 cases in Cambodia rises to 12 after 4 new cases were found. First, is the 4-month old baby of the Frenchman who was diagnosed a day prior. Second, a Cambodian who came from France tested positive for COVID-19. Third, a Cambodian living in Preah Vihear province. Fourth, another Cambodian living in Preah Vihear.

The Cambodian government issued an order urging all Cambodian to refrain from traveling abroad, especially to Europe, the US, and Iran to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19

The Ministry of Health has designated 3 Phnom Penh hospitals as COVID-19 treatment centres, including 25 provincial referral centres in anticipation of more confirmed cases. The Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh is designated as the primary testing center in the Kingdom.

(Cambodian Muslims who came from a religious congregation in Malaysia test positive for COVID-19. Photo by Chor Sokunthea from Khmer Times.)

March 17, 2020 - COVID-19 cases double to 24 after 11 Cambodians who returned from a religious congregation in Malaysia tested positive for COVID-19. 57 other Cambodians who came from the same trip are being tested.

As a result of the massive uptick, KTVs, cinemas, and religious gatherings were ordered to be closed and suspended until the COVID-19 outbreak was contained. This has resulted in more people to stay in their homes and resort to online content for entertainment and interaction.

The Health Ministry reported several new cases of COVID-19 in Phnom Penh and five other provinces, bringing the total to 33 cases in the Kingdom. COVID-19 was detected in 17 Cambodian and 3 Malaysian nationals who attended a religious event in Malaysia. Cambodians who tested positive were found in Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhang, Battambang, Kampot, Kep, Tboung Khmum, and Banteay Meanchey. Great Duke hotel is designated as COVID-19 quarantine centre in Phnom Penh with 300 or so beds available.

March 18, 2020 - Confirmed cases jump to 35 in Cambodia after 2 Malaysian nationals tested positive for the disease.

The government instructs ministries to begin working from home. Other companies follow suit and resort to online marketing to reach their respective markets.

The first batch of medical supplies from China arrive in Cambodia. These include test kits, hazmat suits, surgical masks, and other important medical equipment used to combat COVID-19.

March 19, 2020 - The Health Ministry announced two more cases of COVID-19 in Tboung Khmum province, bringing the number of infections to 37.

Cambodian government sets up the National Commission for Combating COVID-19 as a committee headed by PM Hun Sen and 5 deputy heads to oversee the implementation of the strategic plan for the prevention, control, and management of Covid-19; respond to issues of political, economic and social aspects at all levels.

The Chinese embassy has reported that a vaccine is in the works but indicated no timeframe for its commercial availability.

WHO reported that over 180,000 people have been infected around the world with almost 7,500 people succumbing to the disease. More quarantines are imposed across Western countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

(A Cambodian man gets his temperature checked on the road. As more cases are confirmed, Cambodians have become more aware of how infectious the novel coronavirus is. Photo by Siv Channa from Khmer Times.)

March 20, 2020 - COVID-19 cases rise to 47 with 10 more cases detected in Phnom Penh, Battambang, and Kandal provinces. China announces the formation of 7 medical experts to be sent to Cambodia within the next few days.

March 21, 2020 - COVID-19 cases rise to 53 with 6 more cases found in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Battambang, and Sihanoukville.

March 22, 2020 - Second case of COVID-19 recovery expected to be discharged. The patient is a British national from the Viking Cruise Journey.

(A team of Chinese medical professionals arrives in Cambodia to help the Kingdom stem the virus outbreak. Photo by Chor Sokunthea from Khmer Times.)

March 23, 2020 - Confirmed cases soar from 53 to 86 - 29 Frenchs 4 Cambodians. The largest overnight increase in confirmed cases to-date in Cambodia.

Chinese doctors arrive in the Kingdom to help manage the COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia.

March 24, 2020 - 1 more case of COVID-19 is confirmed in Phnom Penh. Total cases are now up to 87.

Several real estate projects announce temporary suspensions to their construction to prevent construction workers from getting sick.

(Medical personnel wait outside the hotel where infected French tourists are quarantined in Sihanoukville. Photo by the Khmer Times.)

March 25, 2020 - 4 more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed from testing conducted on Viking Cruise Journey passengers. Raising total cases in the Kingdom to 91.

March 26, 2020 - 5 new cases were discovered in the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Siem Reap, Kandal, and Phnom Penh. Total cases are now up to 96. While cases have gone up, a total of 10 patients have now recovered from COVID-19 in the Kingdom.

More than 3,000 rooms have been reserved across the Kingdom in anticipation of a surge in cases.

22 passengers from Viking Cruise Journey tested negative and were flown out by their respective embassies.

The government is considering waiving overstay charges for tourists stuck in Cambodia due to flight cancellations amid the virus outbreak.

March 31, 2020 - Confirmed COVID-19 cases increase to 109. New cases were confirmed in the cities of Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and most recently, Poipet in Banteay Meanchey

The Prime Minister has announced that the government will be convening to draft a bill declaring a state of emergency for the Kingdom of Cambodia.

April 2, 2020 - Cases in Cambodia increased to 110 as a Cambodian man who came in contact with the French tourists in Sihanoukville was diagnosed with the virus.

7 out of the 33 French tourists have recovered from COVID-19, making recoveries in the Kingdom now total to 25.

April 7, 2020 - Cases in Cambodia increased to 115 after 3 days of no new infections. Total recovered cases have gone up to 54

April 9, 2020 - The Royal Government of Cambodia, mandated a provincial restriction of movement throughout Cambodia. The decree prevents civilians from traveling between provinces. Exempted from this law are medical staff, the Cambodian armed forces, government officials on official business, and transportation of goods.

April 13, 2020 - The total number of cases increased by 7 after cases were confirmed in Phnom Penh with the first case of reinfection in Cambodia. Of the new total of 122 confirmed cases, 77 have been cured of COVID-19.

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