Despite the World Health Organization’s advice not to do so, many countries, including Cambodia, are gradually lifting their travel restrictions and relaxing rules to fuel economic growth badly hit over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cambodia managed to lift the coronavirus restrictions with the acceleration of vaccination campaigns and getting over 90% of the adult and adolescent population to be fully vaccinated and having a marked drop in hospitalisations.
Some countries are even relaxing rules and scaling back testing for Covid and quarantine measures to revive the tourism sector and reconnect with the world to restore economic activity.
WHO is cautioning countries to be alert and vigilant for the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its stealth circulating in many countries and cases still increasing and deaths still happening.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on March 16 that after several weeks of declines, reported cases of Covid-19 are once going increasing globally, especially in part of Asia.
“These increases are occurring despite the reduction in testing in some countries which means the cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg, and we know that when cases increase, so do deaths,” he said.
He noted that each country is facing a different situation with different challenges but the pandemic is not over.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Tuesday that the only reason that Cambodia dropped the mass testing such as pre-departure PCR 72-hour test and Rapid antigen test upon arrival is to balance the living of our socio-economic status and business’.
She had said, “Don’t tie yourself up in the Covid-19 box for too long, you will die before the Covid-19 virus kills you.
That’s why it is necessary to find a way out and leave this box. That is why the government decided to lift the restrictions.”
“The way out here does not mean we are going to face the deaths of Covid-19 again or the virus transmits to the general public community. We do this in order to live in the new normal with Covid-19 virus and its variant,” she added.
Vandine assured that despite the mandatory Covid testing being dropped at the international border, they will keep tracking the Omicron and other variant performances in the community.
She reminded the public that lifting restrictions doesn’t mean that there is no risk as there is risk every moment around them from the virus.
Vandine has called on those infected to report to officials so that the ministry can keep track of the virus spread and the variant which is prevalent in the community.
On March 17, the Ministry of Health issued a new guideline that abolished all Covid-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated international travellers from all countries.
Cambodia is the first country in Southeast Asia which announced this and other countries in the region are also gradually lifting or relaxing their travel guidelines for international travelers.
World Health Organization representative to Cambodia, Dr Li Ailan said yesterday that all individuals including international travellers, communities, and countries should continue to implement Covid-19 preventive measures to protect themselves and each other from the virus.
“WHO recommends and supports a risk-based, calibrated response to Covid-19 including necessary Public Health and Social Measures. There is no zero risk,” she added.