Covid papers ‘not needed’ upon entry to Kingdom

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Buddhists celebrate Pchum Ben festival at a pagoda in Koh Dach commune of the capital’s Chroy Changvar district on September 24. Hong Menea

Cambodia has apparently taken the final step towards full reopening of the country without Covid-19 restrictions by removing all requirements for inbound travellers, who until now had to show health certificates indicating that they have tested Covid-19 negative in the past 72 hours as well as showing their vaccination cards.

“We have removed the requirement for all inbound travellers in all modes of transport: Land, waterways and air. They no longer need to produce health certificates or show proof of full vaccination upon arrival,” said Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng in an October 3 announcement.

The decision, which takes effect immediately, followed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recommendation.

The premier said last week that he had urged the removal of all restrictions after he travelled to the US’ New York City for the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA), noting that the authorities at the airports there were not checking vaccination cards or testing anyone.

Bun Heng said travellers will still be required to have their temperatures taken when arriving at border crossings. Also, health officials and relevant officials in charge of quarantine will remain at borders and airports to check travellers and provide advice to them if necessary.

The minister also urged all people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated immediately and for everyone to maintain infection preventive measures.

Asked about his views on the easing of Covid restrictions, Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said that lifting the restrictions would accelerate the Kingdom’s economic recovery in the post-Covid era.

He said that Cambodian people have mostly been vaccinated and some have already received their fifth booster shots.

“We see that Cambodia has achieved herd immunity against Covid-19. Hence, reopening the country to welcome international travellers without requiring them to show health certificates or vaccination cards is a good way for us to boost the economic recovery and to welcome international tourists back to Cambodia,” he said.

Peou said he still would urge the public to always remain vigilant about infection prevention measures, even if they have been fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the recent celebrations of Kan Ben and Pchum Ben were celebrated wisely by the public, with no spread of Covid-19 or deaths from the virus recorded. However, he noted his concern about the road toll over the holiday period.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for nearly 4,000 students of the Vanda Institute on October 3, he confirmed that people were well aware of the health measures put in place by the government in response to the pandemic. The public understood that they were designed to protect the lives of the people of Cambodia, he added.

Cambodia is considered one of the world’s leading nations for its Covid-19 response, thanks to the remarkable success of its vaccination programme, which created a high level of social resilience that has in turn allowed the Kingdom to reopen.

Last year’s celebrations were restricted more heavily, with public gatherings cancelled after the observation of day four of Kan Ben.

“After the spread of the virus was halted, we were able to reopen the Kingdom on November 1 last year. This was clear evidence that the government’s measures were the most appropriate solution for saving people’s lives,” said the prime minister.

Hun Sen added that if he had gotten careless last year, perhaps some monks and Buddhists would not have been able to observe Pchum Ben this year as Covid-19 may have taken their lives. This year, people were able to enjoy the traditional festivities without any serious spread of the disease.

“Our real losses this year came from traffic accidents, not from the virus. Just 19 patients were hospitalised due to Covid-19. Most people were treated at home, thanks to the strong herd immunity provided by our inoculation campaign,” he said.

There were 27 people killed and 57 injured in traffic accidents across the country during the three-day festival from September 24 to 26. In the same period last year, there were 14 deaths and 64 injuries.

Cambodia is now considered a global leader in the area of public health for its control of the pandemic, and has achieved one of the highest vaccination rates on the planet. It was thanks to this excellent record that the in-person graduation was able to be celebrated – for the first time in two years – said Hun Sen.

As the situation has improved, the prime minister has instructed the Ministry of Health to examine lifting more restrictions.

Hun Sen outlined plans to lift the entry conditions for travellers to the Kingdom on September 29, when he presided over the 6th National Interfaith Forum Against Human Trafficking in Chroy Changvar.

“Naturally, I am asking the health ministry to conduct technical meetings first, but currently we require a vaccination card and health certificate from new arrivals to the Kingdom. I think these conditions should be waived,” he said.

According to a report by the health ministry, as of October 2, the rate of vaccinations nationwide – out of a population of 16 million – was nearly 95 per cent, with more than 10 million having received their third booster doses. The ministry said four million people have gotten a fourth dose and over 870,000 received their fifth doses.