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Airport gears up for tourism return as Covid-19 subsides

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In-flight service for passengers at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2019. Hong Menea

Airport gears up for tourism return as Covid-19 subsides

With Covid-19 cases on the decline, Phnom Penh International Airport is set to fully open at the end of next month and begin accepting tourists again. How many tourists exactly remains to be seen and the airport has yet to update its guidelines for dealing with new arrivals.

Brigadier General Thong Sophat, who serves as the deputy head of the airport gate, told The Post on October 27 that he had not yet received instructions for the reopening of international tourism at the end of November. However, preventive health measures were still being maintained at the airport.

“We are always careful and our airport continues to operate normally. The air routes have not changed or closed. Despite having more or less passengers, we continue to operate consistently.

“We look forward to seeing developments in the next few days as we just knew the information of receiving travellers, but we have not yet received any further instructions,” he said.

He added that there are a small number of people who travel to and from the airport every day. The Ministry of Health has also set up thermometers to take temperatures upon arrival and alcohol sanitisers are omnipresent.

Sophat continued that in the past few days, there seemed to be a slight increase of between 50 to 70 travellers after the government reduced the quarantine length to three, seven or 14 days depending on the reasons for the visit and the person’s vaccination status.

“We don’t have a monthly number yet because the changes were only made on October 18, but we hope they start coming steadily and in greater numbers,” he said.

“I and many others alike want to return to normal and start receiving travellers into the country. But we also have to be careful. We are worried about the import of Covid-19 because the virus mutates and new and even worse variants could get in and spread,” he added.

The Ministry of Tourism on October 26 announced the reopening of international tourism starting November 30. Preah Sihanouk province and its popular Koh Rong Island and Koh Kong province’s Dara Sakor area will reopen first, followed by Siem Reap in January 2022 as part of the vaccinated tourist programme.

Tourism minister Thong Khon said the reopening will allow international tourists to stay and visit certain areas and safe tourist destinations for five days without having to first quarantine.

“The ministry has put in place a number of tourist safety measures and determined the standard operating procedures for all tourist businesses to ensure the safety of all visitors,” ministry spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post.

He added that it was also important for all staff working in the tourism sector to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The tourism minister has created working groups to monitor the implementation of these safety policies on an ongoing basis and in cooperation with other ministries as well as municipal and provincial administrations. Overall, we are prepared to do this work,” he said.

Health minister Mam Bun Heng introduced new procedures on October 20 for quarantining fully vaccinated foreign travellers.

Fully-vaccinated foreign investors, technical staff, employees of private companies, diplomats, NGO project managers, civil servants returning from missions abroad and the family members of anyone who falls into one of these categories will be subject to 3-day quarantine and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at their point of entry.

Ordinary travellers who are fully vaccinated – both Cambodian citizens and foreign nationals – must undergo quarantine for 7 days. They must also take a rapid antigen test on arrival at their point of entry and then a PCR test on day 6 of quarantine.

All partially-vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers must undergo 14 days quarantine with a rapid antigen test on arrival and a PCR test on day 13 of quarantine.

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