Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the reopening of the country at a vaccination event on Monday, and did not detail if there would be further relaxing of existing quarantine measures for general travelers but said he was considering lifting restrictions on “high-risk” businesses.
The government last week signaled its intentions to reopen the country to tourists by announcing a “sandbox” arrangement in Sihanoukville, including Koh Rong island, and at the Dara Sakor tourism area in Koh Kong. Tourists will have to get a PCR test on arrival, stay five days in the sandbox and can then leave for other parts of the country.
Hun Sen said on Monday that the government had successfully prevented the spread of Covid-19, curbed transmissions and vaccinated people to protect them from the virus. The fourth step was the reopening of the country, he said at the commencement of a vaccination campaign for 5-year-old children.
“The fourth stage is starting now. The full reopening of the country for all sectors and living with Covid-19 in a new normal way is starting from today. So, we will try it on,” the prime minister said.
The government had announced in early October that the partial reopening for the Pchum Ben holiday was a test case, and if that did not result in increased transmissions then the country would look to reopen across the board.
Quarantine requirements have been eased to seven days for fully vaccinated people, with businesspersons and diplomats required to only do three days of quarantine. Hun Sen sweetened the quarantine requirements for Cambodian businesspersons by allowing them to quarantine at home after returning from a business trip.
Certain provinces, like Phnom Penh, have retained certain restrictions on risky business activity like night clubs and karaoke bars. Hun Sen said he was considering whether to relax these restrictions.
The prime minister also announced on his Facebook page that people were now free to go to any vaccine center to get inoculated, dropping the previous requirement of having to go to a center closest to your residence and with an invitation letter from a commune official.
Also, companies would be able to start purchasing vaccines for their employees as and when a fourth dose is needed, he said. Phnom Penh is currently in the process of administering a third boost dose to residents, though the campaign had to be extended because of a tepid response.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said the country has been able to contain the Covid-19 virus, and even though the situation was getting back to normal, people needed to remain vigilant.
“The return to normality but it is with a new way including carefulness,” he said, “It is like a plant that gets water and blossoms. It is a new hope for our Cambodian people.”
He added that the 100 percent vaccination of 10 million of the country’s 16.5 million population was another signal to enter the “new normal.”
Top Sopheak, spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry, said this was a good sign for the tourism sector, especially the resumption of flights from Thailand.
Last week, the government allowed the resumption of regional flights from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The government also said it would reciprocate Thai regulations by allowing quarantine-free entry from Thailand to Cambodia.
The ministry was working with the three tourism departments in charge of the sandbox destinations to prepare for the arrival of tourists later this month. Popular tourist destination Siem Reap is expected to welcome travelers early next year.
“If we successfully implement this first stage, we will continue to open to other important destinations,” Sopheak said.
“We are really waiting for this opportunity to restore our economy again. Especially, when we see the step by step [return to] normality for our country and other countries in the world.”