PHNOM PENH, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said on Saturday that the COVID-19 has hit almost half of the Buddhist pagodas here in the capital city.
"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 publicly.
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 COVID-19 testing.
COVID-19 outbreaks at pagodas occurred after Buddhists began to celebrate the 15-day traditional Pchum Ben festival, or honoring-the-dead festival, on Wednesday.
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 of COVID-19, particularly its highly contagious Delta variant.
Pchum Ben festival is the second-largest traditional celebration 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 on Saturday confirmed a daily record of 816 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the national total caseload to 108,257, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said, adding that 21 more fatalities had been recorded, taking the overall death toll to 2,218.
The country launched a COVID-19 vaccination drive in February. As of Sept. 24, it had administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 12.95 million people, or 80.9 percent of its 16-million population, the MoH said.
Of them, 10.77 million, or 67.3 percent, had been fully vaccinated with both required shots, and 860,551, or 5.37 percent, had received a booster dose, it added.
Hun Sen said vaccines alone are not enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, 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 include 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.