Quarantine move may lift int’l arrivals

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Visitors arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport in March. Heng Chivoan

A pick-up in international tourism growth is expected after the government scaled back quarantine restrictions for inbound travellers to Cambodia who have not received a primary course of Covid-19 vaccines, in a move set to take effect on the onset of July 11.

Arrivals to the Kingdom who are not fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 – will still have to get a rapid antigen test at a cost of $5, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said in a statement.

 

Fully vaccinated inbound passengers have been exempted from Covid-19 rapid antigen test upon arrival since March.

The minister affirmed that health officials would administer the rapid tests at all entry points into the country, and that with a negative result, any individual would be free to continue on to their domestic destinations.

In the event of a positive result, individuals with mild condition may receive treatment at home or any facility as determined by the health ministry or authority in charge. Those in severe condition must receive care at designated state Covid-19 treatment centres. All costs associated with treatment and accommodation are borne by the individual.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin told The Post on July 10 that the quarantine rule change would lift many of the pressures and barriers associated with all kinds of tourism, and suggested that the previous restrictions had detracted many tourists from coming to the Kingdom.

The government started a push in early November towards the full resumption of tourism and other socio-economic activity, inspired by sustained improvements in the Covid-19 situation.

Consequently, Sivlin said, “since the reopening of the economy and tourism, we’ve seen a decent rise in foreign arrivals, even if there haven’t been any

 

sharp jumps”. She predicted that the move would bring a marked increase in the number of international travellers, especially those from the ASEAN region.

Cambodia Hotel Association president Din Somethearith pointed out that other ASEAN countries are lagging behind Cambodia in relaxing quarantine rules for arrivals yet to receive a primary series of Covid-19 jabs, which he argued would provide the Kingdom a competitive edge as a travel destination.

Although novel coronavirus infections have been reported in the past two weeks – breaking a 52-day streak between May 7 and June 27 when no new cases had been recorded – the low levels of Covid-19 metrics motivated the Ministry of Tourism and broader government to go through with the quarantine rule changes, Somethearith noted.

He estimated that Cambodia received “more than 300,000” international arrivals “by the middle of the year”, and – citing tourism ministry forecasts – predicted the full-year amount to soar to one million, buoyed by the latest quarantine move.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of IMCT Co Ltd and Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter (PATACC), said the move would generate more interest in the Kingdom as a vacation destination, but cautioned of the risk that non-fully vaccinated travellers could pose.

He called on everyone to adhere to “the strictest health rules”, lest there be a Covid-19 outbreak not unlike those seen in Thailand or the Philippines.

“If we are not careful enough, or actively try to forget, it could one day re-emerge as a serious threat.”