Cambodian PM advises suspending ongoing Kan Ben festival over COVID-19 outbreak at Buddhist pagoda

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Publish Time: 2021-09-24 Author: From: Xinhua

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Thursday advised the health ministry to consider suspending the ongoing two-week Kan Ben festival following a COVID-19 outbreak at a Buddhist pagoda, just a day after the festival began.

In an audio message released publicly, Hun Sen said the latest outbreak occurred at a Buddhist pagoda in the capital city of Phnom Penh, with at least 45 infections confirmed so far.

The pagoda had been shut down, he said, warning that any gathering at pagodas during the festival could lead to the mass transmission of COVID-19, especially the Delta variant.

"I really worry that after this festival, the number of infected people and deaths will increase. That can pose serious risk to the nation and can destroy our plan to reopen schools," said Hun Sen.

"I'd like to urge the health ministry to consider whether we can suspend this festival or not," he said. "If it cannot be suspended, the number of the festival goers must be reduced to the fewest, allowing only two or three persons to bring food and other necessities to the monks at the pagodas."

The two-week Kan Ben festival began on Wednesday throughout Cambodia. During the period, Buddhists visit pagodas to make offerings to monks in order to dedicate to their relatives and loved ones who had passed away.

Devotees 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.

Kan Ben festival is part of the Pchum Ben festival or the Ancestor's Day, which is one of the important festivals in Cambodia. This year's Pchum Ben festival falls on Oct. 6.

The Southeast Asian country on Thursday reported a daily spike record of 638 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total tally to 106,619, the health ministry said, adding 22 more fatalities from the pandemic were registered, taking the overall death toll to 2,176.

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