Certify No Covid-19 Before Trip Home, Embassy in Malaysia Tells Citizens

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Cambodians wait to return home at an airport in Malaysia while flights to Cambodia were restricted on April 7, 2020. (Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia)

The Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has told Cambodian citizens in Malaysia, including 143 people who have been trying to return home since last month, to attain documents certifying they are free of Covid-19 if they wish to be allowed back in the country. But some say they cannot afford to pay for the health reports.

In a notice dated Thursday, the embassy said Cambodians needed to acquire a health certificate from Malaysian authorities within 72 hours from their departure, in line with entry health requirements announced by the Cambodian government on Wednesday.

All arriving Cambodian and foreign nationals are required to produce a health report certifying that they have not tested positive for Covid-19 within a 72-hour period, and foreigners must provide proof of health insurance worth at least $50,000, a Health Ministry notice said.

Echoing the ministry, the embassy in Malaysia said all people entering Cambodia will be tested for Covid-19 and sent to a waiting center while their samples are processed. Health officials have said that tests take 24 hours to process and the nation’s laboratories have the capacity to test up to 600 samples per day. 

If just one arriving traveler tests positive for Covid-19, the Health Ministry said all travelers on the patient’s flight will be quarantined for 14 days at a government-designated site.

Even if all passengers on the flight test negative for Covid-19, the ministry will require arrivals to self-isolate at their home or hotel for 14 days, with local authorities and health officials periodically checking on them. Self-isolating individuals will be required to take another Covid-19 test 13 days after their arrival.

The embassy also instructed those among the 143 Cambodians who have not been able to depart Malaysia since early last month and who have not provided their personal information to officials to contact the embassy.

The notice said the embassy has been working with Malaysia Airlines to enable people to return to Cambodia soon. It added that the airline plans to restart flights between the two countries in July.

On April 7, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the 143 people in Malaysia were not allowed to return to Cambodia at that time due to concerns about the spread of Covid-19. Hun Sen appealed to Cambodians wishing to return home to stay in Malaysia in order to protect people in Cambodia from the virus.

In March, more than 30 people, who had either attended a religious gathering in Malaysia or had contact with someone who did, tested positive for Covid-19 in Cambodia. Hundreds of positive cases around Southeast Asia were connected to the Muslim ceremony, which an Islamic community leader said last month was attended by about 80 people who later returned to Cambodia.

Several Muslim people living in Phnom Penh told VOD in March that they had experienced discrimination related to the Covid-19 infections tied to the Muslim ceremony, including people refusing to exchange money, speak with them or frequent their businesses.

Sleh Sabri, a first-year master’s student at the International Islamic University Malaysia, told VOD he is currently studying online and hasn’t been able to return to Cambodia.

He and others submitted their passports, airplane tickets and letters requesting permission to leave Malaysia to the Cambodian Embassy and were waiting to find out when they could go home, Sabri said in a message this week.

He and others did not have money to pay for health checkups, which are needed to get Covid-19-free certificates, but they had asked the embassy for help, according to Sabri.

“For the health certificates, we have requested for the embassy to find a solution because we don’t know where to process it and don’t know how much it costs, and partly we don’t have the money. So, we already asked the embassy, which said to just wait for a solution,” the student said.

“Every day, we wait for an answer from the embassy. What they told us, we do,” he added.

Khun Tharo, program manager at labor rights group Central, welcomed the embassy support but added that if the government does not pay for their health checkup and plane tickets, some Cambodians in Malaysia, which include students, migrant workers and others, will continue to be stuck there because they lacked funds.

“Only the government can help and find a solution for them,” Tharo said.

Cambodia reported its first new Covid-19 case in more than a month on Thursday, a 26-year-old Cambodian man who returned from the Philippines via South Korea on Wednesday.

The man, Cambodia’s 123rd coronavirus patient, is being quarantined in Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, a Health Ministry statement said. The other 62 passengers on the flight, mostly Cambodian and South Korean nationals, tested negative and are being quarantined for 14 days in a Phnom Penh hotel.

While schools in Cambodia remain shut, the government on Wednesday lifted a previous ban on foreigners entering the country from Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the U.S.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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