People ignore social distancing as they wait to receive the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Phnom Penh on March 10, 2021. Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

Cambodia reported its first coronavirus death on Thursday as the country battles its worst outbreak since the pandemic began one year ago.

A driver died in a hospital on Thursday morning in Phnom Penh after testing positive for the virus late last month, the health ministry said.

Cambodia has largely escaped the brunt of the pandemic, registering just 1,163 cases, but a community cluster among Chinese expatriates has brought the biggest spike yet seen in the country.

Health authorities announced 39 new cases on Thursday. The virus is now spreading around the country, including to Sihanoukville, the seaport city that has become a honeypot for Chinese gamblers and investors.

Cambodia’s parliament last week passed a strict Covid-19 prevention bill that could see people who flout coronavirus rules jailed for up to 20 years.

The government began vaccinations last month after China donated 600,000 doses of Sinopharm shots. A further 324,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines were provided to Phnom Penh by Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute inoculations for free for poorer countries.

Cambodia plans to vaccinate at least 10 million of its 16 million population, and diplomats and foreigners working in Cambodia will get the jabs for free.