Government Lifts Covid-19 Travel Ban on Six Nations, Reopens Museums

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People in the lobby area of the Phnom Penh International Airport on March 11, 2020 (VOD)

The government on Wednesday lifted a ban on travelers arriving from six countries, four days after the Health Ministry said the last remaining Covid-19 patient of Cambodia’s 122 confirmed cases had recovered from the virus.

Foreigners traveling from Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the U.S. had been banned from entering the country since March 17, after officials flagged foreign travel as one of the main methods of Covid-19 transmission in the country. The removal of restrictions on entry went into effect on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the Health Ministry announced that museums would be allowed to reopen next month and issued health safety guidelines both for local businesses as well as people entering the country.

All arriving foreign and Cambodian nationals will be 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, with exemptions for those with diplomatic or official visas, according to a Health Ministry notice.

All people entering Cambodia will be tested for Covid-19 and sent to a waiting center while processing their samples, the ministry said. 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 one or more arriving travelers test positive for Covid-19, the Health Ministry said that all travelers on the patient’s flight will be quarantined for 14 days at a site designated by the government.

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. Local authorities and health officials will periodically check on self-isolating individuals, who will be required to take a second Covid-19 test 13 days after their arrival.

According to schedules from Tuesday and Thursday this week listed on the flight tracking app FlightRadar24, airlines and routes operating between Cambodia’s three airports and major transportation hubs — including Bangkok, Seoul and Shanghai — have been reduced or canceled, while there are no scheduled flights from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

In a separate statement, the Health Ministry offered guidelines to city and provincial governors in an effort to prevent a “second wave” of Covid-19 infections in the country. 

The ministry recommended that governors recruit individuals to monitor and educate people to ensure citizens are practicing preventative health measures and raise awareness about the virus. Local officials should continue to shut down parties, religious gatherings and other large group activities that could cause the virus to spread until September or further notice, the statement said. 

The ministry also recommended that officials inspect restaurants and canteens to ensure staff are wearing face masks and maintaining social distance, saying that officials can order noncompliant businesses to close until the pandemic situation improves. 

The statement added authorities should urge people from overseas who have not been checked at the border to self-isolate for 14 days and report symptoms to a health center. 

The Health Ministry also advised the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to establish preventative measures before allowing the general public to enter reopened museums, such as providing hand sanitizer, checking patrons’ temperatures, requiring face masks and social distancing, and preventing those who appear ill from entering.

Cambodia has reported no new cases of Covid-19 for 38 consecutive days as of Wednesday, testing 15,572 samples since January, according to Health Ministry statements. 

Earlier this month, Cambodia’s World Health Organization (WHO) representative Li Ailan told reporters that the global pandemic was “far from over, globally and in Cambodia.”

“If there is an outbreak in another part of the world, we are at risk. We are not safe,” Li said on May 4.

The Health Ministry has repeatedly warned of a possible “second wave” of infections if the public doesn’t take precautions and advocated implementing “new normal” behaviors that include frequent handwashing and social distancing.

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