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Cambodia looks to autumn unlocking

Cambodia is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Southeast Asia.

The Kingdom of Cambodia has announced that it’s looking to an autumn unlocking and is hoping to welcome back international holidaymakers this winter.

Phnom Penh is currently on track to become the most vaccinated city in Southeast Asia, with 60% of the total population and 95% of residents of the capital, Phnom Penh, having received a jab. The country is hoping to reach herd immunity, with 75% of the 16.5 million population fully vaccinated by the end of September. Vaccination of children over the age of 12 began last month.

Cambodia is one of the main beneficiaries of Chinese vaccine diplomacy and as Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen pointed out earlier this year, "If I don't ask China, who am I to ask for help?" The free vaccine programme is currently eight months ahead of schedule and it's anticipated it will be completed up to a year ahead of neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.

According to the Cambodian health ministry, more than 27 million of the 30 million doses have come from China, with most fully paid for rather than gifted. Donations have also been received from the United States, Japan and COVAX. COVAX shipments of AstraZeneca are being used as booster shots to back-up Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm jabs. Children are to receive jabs from Pfizer and Moderna.

“We’ve been very fortunate in Cambodia to have access to vaccines and I’m pleased to report that 99% of our staff are fully vaccinated,” said Herman Kemp, general manager of the new Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh, which opened in January.

Cambodia closed its borders to tourists in April 2020 and last year recorded no deaths and fewer than 400 cases of Covid-19. However, in February this year a new wave triggered a strict nationwide lockdown. In June, the government began mass inoculation of its population.

“Cambodia’s success in controlling the pandemic last year is due to a combination of factors,” said Kemp. “Cambodia has a very young population and the country is not as urbanised as most surrounding countries.”

This was combined with a strict containment policy with restrictions on those entering the country and monitoring of people’s movements.

“And with a successful vaccination rollout, the country is now on the brink of reopening and with an outlook of strong economic and social improvement in the very near future,” said Kemp.

According to the Cambodian tourism ministry, fully vaccinated visitors with vaccination proof may be allowed into the country as soon as November. It’s hoped that there will be a full removal of the current 14-day quarantine and that visitors will simply need to show a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel along with a second negative test on arrival.

However, the reopening of the country will depend on consumer confidence as much as a speedy inoculation programme.

“If Cambodia continues on the current vaccination trajectory, we will most likely become the first country in Southeast Asia to open to tourists,” said Kemp. “When that happens I’m looking forward to welcoming international guests to our beautiful property and showing them all that this amazing city has to offer.”

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