After almost two weeks without any new cases of coronavirus infection, the government of Cambodia is convinced that it has the outbreak of the virus under control. Plans are already being made to slowly restart the country, but the WHO warns Cambodia to not move too fast.
Coronavirus in Cambodia: the numbers
Compared to other countries in the world, the coronavirus numbers for Cambodia are almost impossibly positive. According to the latest numbers, there are 122 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. This is impressive of itself, but where Cambodia truly rises head and shoulders above the other countries is the fact that no fatalities have been reported as a result of the virus. This is even more impressive considering Cambodia is a popular destination for Chinese tourists. In comparison: neighbouring Thailand has over 2000 cases of coronavirus infection, with 26 casualties.
However, there are also people that say that the numbers are low because the government isn’t testing enough. Furthermore, foreign aid organisations have limited possibilities to enter the country to check for themselves. The government of Cambodia has been cracking down on such reports: multiple people have already been arrested for spreading “fake news”, including a 14 year old girl that voiced her concerns about the spread of the virus at her school. A recently accepted law gives the government the power to check all telecommunication and (social) media.
Outbreak under control
The government of Cambodia claims to have the outbreak fully under control. Cambodia has not reported any new cases of coronavirus in the past few weeks. The government hopes that this means that the peak has been passed. Contrary to other countries, Cambodia did not implement a full lockdown. Various sectors still work as normal. For instance, banks and government offices remain open to the public. However, this does not mean that the government has not implemented any measures whatsoever. For example, the yearly Khmer new year has been cancelled, and the population is advised to travel as little as possible. Cambodia has also declared a state of emergency, which gives the government far more tools to take resolute actions. Some people fear that this is an excuse for the government to push through undemocratic laws.
WHO warns: the worst is still to come
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that while the news of the absence of any new cases in Cambodia is very good news, the country is still likely in the starting phase of the outbreak. In a press conference, a spokesperson of the WHO warned that Cambodia should be ready for person to person transmission of the virus, and that this can lead to an explosive increase of the number of infections with coronavirus. The spokesperson concluded that the outbreak will not be truly over in any country, until it is over in all countries. Cambodia should thus remain alert, according to the WHO.
No lockdown, but a travel ban
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Cambodian government has been blaming foreign countries for coronavirus infections. In response, Cambodia closed the airspace for international flights. The government is extremely strict in this: even migrants from Cambodia working abroad sometimes cannot return home. But the travel ban is primarily aimed at western travellers. Whereas before they could enter Cambodia with a digital Cambodia visa, this is no longer the case. Visas for Cambodia can no longer be used to travel to the country. It is unclear how long this measure will last, but what is clear is that the government of Cambodia is jumping at the opportunity to get the country running again. The Cambodia visa is valid for 90 days, meaning there is a small chance it might be usable in the future, when the borders open again. Tourism is one of the primary sources of income for Cambodia, and the country has been struggling with a stagnating economy for years. The question remains if the government will take the advice of the WHO into consideration.