Prime Minister Hun Sen, while presiding over the inauguration of “SOS Children’s Village” in Prey Veng, said yesterday the government was dropping compulsory testing for inbound travellers to boost investment, business and tourism.
He noted that this would also enable the government to save on costs related to medical equipment and tools, in particular testing kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The premier added that doing so is also fundamental for Cambodia to move forward with the goal of living with the coronavirus.
Mr Hun Sen noted that although the new Covid-19 mutated variants like the Omicron are highly transmissible and now spreading widely in the country, the mortality rate is low.
As of yesterday, Cambodia has reported over 13,000 Omicron cases, both local and imported, but only 32 people have been killed by the new variant.
Ministry of Health spokesman Hok Kim Cheng said yesterday that the new directive, which was designed in accordance with the recommendation of the Prime Minister, has more benefits than consequences.
“It doesn’t pose risks as we eased the restrictions at the international borders because all accepted travellers are fully vaccinated. Even if they are infected or contract the virus, it doesn’t put their health at danger,” Kim Cheng added.
Cambodia so far has been very successful in its vaccination drive, with 92.31 percent of its 16 million population (based on the 2019 census) having received at least one Covid-19 jab.
“People in the country are also receiving the booster shot, so it doesn’t create grave concerns over the easing of restrictions. We have to learn to live with the virus,” Kim Cheng said.
He said that travellers who suspect that they may have contracted the virus can just do a self-test like the ministry has recommended.
“The new measure will help in the economic recovery of many sectors, especially tourism, which have been affected by the travel restriction,” he said.
Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak said yesterday that it was such great news for travellers and businesses in the travel and tourism sectors.
“With the new implementation, we expect that the country will gain more tourists and investors, which will effectively assist in economic recovery,” he said. “However, the ministry is also encouraging travellers, both international and local, to strictly comply with preventive measures such as the 3 Dos and 3 Don’ts.”
State Secretariat of Civil Aviation spokesman Sin Sereyvutha said yesterday that although the new rule came into effect from yesterday onwards, the authorities will need at least one week to implement it completely.
“We need time to inform the airlines. We need at least a week before the new rule comes into action,” he said.
He noted that the lifting of restrictions will also resolve travellers’ complaints about “wasting time to do the test” upon arrival.
Dr Quach Mengly, a well-known Cambodian public health expert, said yesterday that doing away with the pre-travel test and on-arrival rapid test is a step in the right direction.
He said it is time for the government to step forward and get the country “out of its comfort zone” which has been in effect for two years.
“Omicron is mild and it is not dangerous for fully vaccinated people. Therefore, easing the restriction is the right way,” he said. “Economic recovery is the priority right now, so I support the government’s new rule for travelling as other countries are planning to implement this too. If each individual complies strictly with the health measures, the outbreak will not be back.”