PM mulling lifting more Covid entry restrictions

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Officials at Phnom Penh International Airport screens passengers. SUPPLIED

Given the significant drop in Covid-19 cases, Cambodia is considering lifting some more of its Covid-19 restrictions related to entry into the Kingdom, in tandem with renewed calls for people to remain vigilant and to get vaccinated with booster shots.

The possibility that additional restrictions could be eliminated was floated by Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 29 when he presided over the 6th interfaith forum to combat human trafficking, held in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district.

“Of course, I’m assigning the Ministry of Health to conduct a technical meeting, but I want to lift more restrictions. Right now we require [travellers] to give us their vaccination status and healthcheck certificates, but I think they should be exempted,” he said.

Hun Sen said his advice is based on his recent experience attending the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City and the fact that when entering the US, he was not even asked to show vaccination status.

“I put my vaccination card in my pocket when I went to the US to attend the UNGA, but I was not asked about the card and it was not because we are VIPs. It was different from before when we were required to take Covid-19 tests before attending various meetings.

“The vaccination cards were useful for some time, but now it is not necessary. We need not use it. When passengers arrive, we can just let them go. If they are unwell, they can test themselves, or if they come to us for help, we can test them. And if they are ill, we will treat them,” he continued.

At the forum, Hun Sen also thanked everyone – regardless of political affiliations or where they are from – for joining the government in curbing the pandemic, practising the “three do’s and three don’ts” and for getting vaccinated. He also thanked “friendly” countries for donating or selling vaccines to the Cambodian government.

The premier also renewed calls for people to remain vigilant and maintain preventive health measures.

“I still renew my calls for people who have yet to get a third dose to do so. This is a concern as some people have already received their fifth dose, while some have yet to get a third,” he said.

He said some people may believe that they do not need to get a third dose because they have already received their second, and the fact that there are relatively few cases and no deaths from the disease currently.

Hun Sen advised getting the booster shots regardless as Covid-19 remains a problem, though there are currently only 10 patients remaining hospitalised, while others are being treated at home.

“If new variants occur, we will face difficulties. So, I would like to call for continued adherence to health measures. Please do not neglect them because Covid has not gone away. We can forget Covid, but Covid does not forget us,” he emphasised.

Back in March, the health ministry issued an announcement easing some conditions for foreign travellers to Cambodia, eliminating the requirement for them to show a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result within the 72 hour period prior to their arrival.

According to the ministry, as of September 28, Cambodia had 94.96 per cent of the estimated population of 16 million vaccinated against Covid-19, with more than 10 million people receiving their third dose, over five million their fourth and around 850,000 their fifth.