Cambodia reopened to fully vaccinated overseas tourists this week without quarantine after a nationwide campaign achieved one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
The move was greeted by desperate travel operators and workers who have struggled to make a living since the start of the pandemic.
“I am delighted and fully support the news of opening the country to vaccinated tourists without quarantine,” said Chhai Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Travel Agents Association. Tourism accounted for more than 12 percent of the country’s economy in 2019 and provided jobs for 630,000 people, she said.
Last month, the Southeast Asian country of about 16 million people announced plans to allow fully vaccinated foreign tourists to begin entering the country at the end of November if they are first quarantined in selected areas for five days.
But, citing fast vaccination rates and an 88 percent vaccination rate, Prime Minister Hun Sen sped up the plan and said fully vaccinated tourists could arrive without quarantine starting Monday.
“This is a big step towards opening up the whole country,” said Mr. Hong Sen, an authoritarian leader who came to power in 1984. “I hope our compatriots will like our discovery. This is largely due to the fact that the country has reached such a high level of vaccination. “
While the prime minister cited a fully vaccinated rate of 88 percent for a population of 16 million, the New York Times says the rate is 80 percent for a population of nearly 16.5 million.
More than two million people received the third dose.
About 90 percent of Cambodia’s vaccines came from China, including over nine million doses of Sinovac and nearly four million doses of Sinopharm.
Under the new rules, travelers arriving from overseas can skip quarantine if they are fully vaccinated, test negative before leaving, and test negative again upon arrival. Travelers who have not been vaccinated must still spend 14 days in quarantine.
Ms Sivlin said travel bookings have started to rise and that airlines are working to increase the number of flights to Cambodia.
Some flights are scheduled to the capital Phnom Penh, but not to Siem Reap, a city near the ancient city of Angkor, which is one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia.
Like many of its neighbors, Cambodia reported relatively few cases of the virus in 2020, but has faced a fatal spike this year. However, the total remains relatively low, with about 120,000 cases and 2,900 deaths.