2020 has certainly had more than its fair share of bad news as the whole world grapples with the Coronavirus. The good news is that with so many nations successfully flattening the curve, the conversation is now turning to life beyond the pandemic and one thing is for sure, travel will soon be back on the agenda.
For those of you whose travel dreams extend to Siem Reap and the glorious temples of Angkor Wat, we thought you might like an update on the current situation regarding Cambodia and the Coronavirus.
With borders closed around the world and a virtual freeze on international travel things are very quiet here in Siem Reap and those who work in tourism (which is the mainstay of the economy here) face serious hardship. But in terms of the virus itself we have been quite blessed, with the kingdom recording only 122 infections and no fatalities. There hasn’t been a single new case since 12th April, which has led to the World Health Organisation (WHO) designating Cambodia as a country experiencing only ‘sporadic’ cases. Our neighbours Laos and Vietnam have also experienced very low numbers of cases of Covid-19.
At the onset of the global pandemic, many predicted Cambodia was ‘high risk’ and would experience a substantial Covid-19 outbreak, due primarily to the large number of mainland Chinese tourists that visit the Kingdom. The first case was reported quite early – on 27 January, so in theory the virus should could have been circulating in Cambodia for some time, particularly as right up until late February there were 25 direct flights per day arriving from 21 different Chinese cities. But although testing rates have been lower than some countries, there has been no surge in sickness, or in death rates, either from hospitals, or the pagodas where cremations take place.
A number of theories have been put forward as to why Cambodia has been spared large scale community transmission, despite high numbers of Chinese visitors during the early stages of the pandemic. Some experts believe that the nature of Chinese tourism in the country may partly account for this, as Chinese tourists tend to stay in Chinese-owned and operated hotels and restaurants and patronize businesses with a predominantly Chinese clientele, so have limited contact with Cambodians.
The government was certainly quick to act too, instituting screening for incoming visitors for fevers and closing schools and karaoke bars when there were only nine confirmed cases. These measures served to raise public awareness about the disease. Cambodians knew that the country’s poor healthcare system would not be able to handle a wave of serious illness and were comfortable taking measures to reduce the risk of hospitalization. The use of facemasks is also common in Cambodia and is now widespread in Phnom Penh, while many businesses require temperature checks and hand sanitizer use prior to entry.
According to an infectious disease expert from the U.S. NAMRU-2 Unit based in Cambodia, Cambodia’s relatively low population density may also be a factor that has protected it from an outbreak. Only 20 percent of Cambodians live in urban areas and the country’s population density (212 people per square mile) ranks 118th in the world. Even in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital and most densely populated city, there are only 8,120 people per square mile, which is considerably lower than cities like Bangkok (13,700 per square mile) and Jakarta (40,400 per square mile).
Many consider too that climate may be a factor. While health officials are yet to reach definitive conclusions in regards to the way the Coronavirus reacts to the environment, it is true that some respiratory viruses do not transmit as effectively from person-to-person in hot humid climates such as Cambodia. Additionally, some viruses have a low tolerance for ultraviolet light. Cambodia enjoys plenty of sunshine and many people spend a significant amount of time outdoors here, as opposed to the colder climates experienced in European winter when populations tend to stay indoors which keeps potentially contaminated warm air circulating inside small confined spaces.
Cambodia on Lockdown
Although not officially locked down like other countries, many businesses such as hotels and restaurants are still closed – not by government mandate but simply because there are so few tourists here. The borders are open, but it remains difficult to enter Cambodia as no visas on arrival are being issued for foreigners for the time being and all citizens Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the United States are currently banned from entering.
Those who do wish to enter the Kingdom must get a visa before arrival, have a medical certificate issued no more than 72 hours prior to arrival and prove they have at least $50,000 for medical coverage. There are currently no direct international flights operating, so any incoming visitors need to transfer through Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia or China, where travel restrictions are also in place.
Will Cambodia reopen soon?
We certainly hope so! Restrictions are slowly being lifted around the world and Cambodia is expected to follow suit, so watch this space as we will be sure to update you with all the latest news on international travel to our beautiful kingdom!
Navutu Dreams will be opening its doors again from 1st June and we can’t wait to welcome you all back. Rest assured the resort has been thoroughly sanitized and our large private suites, spacious yoga shala and choice of three swimming pools set in expansive tropical gardens means social distancing is easily observed.