A recent announcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen that Cambodia will not charge foreigners for Covid-19 treatment could not be implemented any further as the Kingdom looks to reopen the country and restore its economy, a senior official said.
Ministry of Economy and Finance spokesperson Meas Soksensan told The Post on Tuesday that Hun Sen’s announcement was a humanitarian gesture meant only for foreigners stranded in Cambodia.
It applied to those who had no reliance on their countries of origin when they were not allowed to return home, like the Westerdam cruise ship passengers. “In such a situation, Samdech Hun Sen framed a humanitarian principle.
“First, the Westerdam cruise ship was allowed to enter [Cambodia]. Hun Sen also announced that Cambodia would assist tourists who could not return home and had no one to rely on.
“Now we have reached a new situation – restoring the economy and reopening the country gradually. All countries would do the same.
“This new context cannot be compared with the previous one. It is different. So, Cambodia and other countries alike need to charge for treatment costs because we can’t let anyone come for treatment free of charge,” he said.
According to a May 20 government decision, foreigners travelling to Cambodia must have at least $50,000 in health insurance.
And starting June 15, Cambodia also requires foreign travellers to deposit $3,000 for testing, quarantine and travelling including covering treatment costs in case they test positive for Covid-19 while in Cambodia.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said the government reversed its earlier decision because the virus is gravely affecting the economy.
He said it has become the international standard for countries to charge for treatment services and require foreign travellers to have health insurance.
“It is very important because the disease tends to be imported from abroad and our resources are only for our citizens,” he said.
Soksensan confirmed that the government had reserved from $800 million to $2 billion for its fight against Covid-19. The government has so far spent more than $1 billion on it.
Phan Phalla, the head of an inter-ministerial working group for business registration, said the government is currently thinking hard to prepare a budget to be used immediately to support economic activities.
“How much we will spend on [Covid-19] we don’t know yet,” he said.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that Cambodia has a total of 128 Covid-19 patients. Of the 125 who have since recovered, 71 are foreign nationals who received free treatment.