Canned fish, water, and rice: Online shopping in Cambodia’s government-run, nearly empty pandemic store

The store is unpopular with residents, who are struggling for money, and unfamiliar with grocery shopping online.

Pheang Dariny is going into lockdown with just two cans of fish and five eggs left. The 27-year-old, who works in a garment factory in Phnom Penh, was already struggling, as factories have closed to stop the spread of the disease. “I have not gotten my salary yet,” she said. “We don’t work, so we don’t get money.”

After a surge in Covid-19 cases in mid April, with more than 500 reported per day, Cambodia’s government announced that it would extend a two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and its neighboring Ta Khmao district by another fortnight. Cambodia’s outbreak has claimed at least 79 lives since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 9,500 people have been infected. Following April’s spike in cases, areas in the country with the highest rates of infection were declared “red zones,” in which people are only allowed to leave their homes in emergencies. More than 4,500 households are in the stricter control zones.

The new measures were so sudden that they caught many people unprepared. The government has ordered all local markets and countless makeshift and street markets, where most Cambodians purchase their daily groceries, to close. As desperate families pleaded on social media for food, the ministry of commerce launched its own solution to the goods shortages — an online marketplace where locked-down people can buy necessities — called, simply “Ministry of Commerce Online Shopping”. But critics say that the marketplace is an inappropriate way of getting food to people who are now mostly out of money, and who never shop for groceries online anyway.

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