PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers on Monday, two weeks earlier than originally planned, as it emerges from a lengthy lockdown bolstered by one of the world’s highest rates of immunization against COVID-19.
The program allows visitors to skip quarantine measures if they are fully vaccinated, test negative 72 hours before they enter the country and test negative upon their arrival.
Prime Minister Hun Sen decided to move up the opening from Nov. 30 to Nov. 15 to start revitalizing the country’s economic and social activity as soon as possible, buoyed by the fact that 88% of Cambodians are now fully vaccinated.
“The situation has changed,” Hun Sen said in an audio message shared on social media.
The previous plan had been to phase in the reopening by initially restricting travelers to two seaside provinces, but the new scheme means fully vaccinated travelers will be free to visit anywhere in the country after a negative test, the ministry said.
Unvaccinated travelers will still have to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine upon arrival and undergo a series of coronavirus tests before they can travel further.
Cambodia in 2019, before the pandemic, received 6.6 million foreigners who accounted for nearly $5 billion in revenue. Most of them visited the famous Angkor temples in Siem Reap province and seaside destinations, according to the Tourism Ministry.
In 2020, the number of visitors dropped sharply to 1.3 million and earnings from them plunged to about $1 billion.
Cambodia’s vaccination drive started slowly but has ramped up rapidly. Children from age 5 and up have been included in the program since the beginning of November.
Restrictions on domestic tourism, schools and other sectors were also lifted at the start of the month.
The Health Ministry reported 52 new COVID-19 cases Monday and five deaths, bringing Cambodia’s total to 119,588 cases and 2,872 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.