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ASEAN mulls jab paper recognition

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A woman gets booster jab at Phsar Chas Market in Daun Penh district on May 4. Heng Chivoan

ASEAN mulls jab paper recognition

Cambodian health officials support the idea of having mutually recognised Covid-19 vaccination certificates for the ASEAN region as a means to further facilitate travel in order to boost the post-pandemic economic recovery.

The idea was floated during the 15th ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting held along with related meetings earlier this year in Bali, Indonesia, on May 14 -15, though no immediate policy outcomes were apparently derived from their discussions.

The health ministries of member states such as Singapore and Malaysia said the ASEAN ministers had agreed to the basic idea of mutual recognition of vaccination certificates as long as the proposals were realistic and achieved practical outcomes.

Singapore’s health ministry said in a press statement on May 15 that it was important to establish seamless travel across the region, perhaps through the use of digital technologies to mutually recognise vaccination certificates between ASEAN member countries.

“The ASEAN health ministers and senior health officials agreed to work towards an ASEAN Universal Verification Mechanism to facilitate smooth international travel, while protecting the data privacy and security of each ASEAN member state,” it said.

Malaysia’s deputy health minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang said the recognition will be carried out using the ASEAN universal verification mechanisms which were developed based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) technical specifications, according to the Malaysia-based newspaper “The Star”.

Cambodia’s health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on May 16, but health officials and analysts said they supported the use of Covid-19 vaccination certification across all ASEAN countries.

Prak Von, director of the Kampong Chhnang provincial health department, said he supported the concept of having a mutually recognised vaccination certification as it would be beneficial to Cambodia where the vaccination rate had reached 93.77 per cent of the country’s population as of May 15.

“Our country has already achieved a very good rate of vaccination and it should be recognised by the other countries in ASEAN. Cambodia has even set third doses as our basic vaccination goal, while fourth shots are now underway.

“Our vaccination campaigns were hugely successful – listed at or near the top of every global ranking report – and I think that our people are very happy and would applaud this mutual recognition scheme as they can travel abroad without trouble using their vaccination certificates. In the past, different countries haven’t come to sensible common agreements like this,” he said.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that mutual recognition of vaccinations in ASEAN would encourage more economic activity across the entire bloc and help its resumption go smoothly.

“I think this is a good development plan for socio-economic cooperation and is in line with the ASEAN economic recovery plan,” he said.

He added that this mutual recognition could also facilitate the transportation of goods across international borders in addition to aiding the revitalisation of tourism.

“The mutual recognition of vaccinations is vital for continued socio-economic development in ASEAN as a whole. For Cambodia, it is crucial so that we can transport goods to other countries in the region,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last week that he had made an agreement with his Vietnamese counterpart to open land and air access to tourists travelling between Cambodia and Vietnam in order to boost tourism in both countries.

Cambodia has lifted all Covid-19 restrictions for foreign travellers such as the PCR testing 72 hours before landing in Cambodia and eliminating all testing requirements for incoming passengers on arrival including rapid tests.

For fully vaccinated travellers, only vaccination certification is needed to enter the Kingdom. Those who have not been vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated still have to undergo a seven-day quarantine on arrival.

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