As Cambodian airports slowly resume operations with strict requirements to protect the public from COVID-19, Khmer Times interviews some of those who have flown into the Kingdom to hear about their experiences.
On May 7, Khmer Times reported that Cambodia Angkor Air, China Air and Eva Air all reinstated flight routes into Phnom Penh International Airport at the start of the same month. Flying from Ho Chi Minh’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport and Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport.
Later in the same month, Health Minister and head of Inter-Ministerial Commission for Combating COVID-19 Mam Bun Heng, had a request approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen to lift travel bans for six countries. The countries, who originally were denied entry as of March 15, were Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Iran and the US.
The welcome resumption of airline services comes as only 1.16 million foreign visitors arrived in the Kingdom during the first four months of this year, a 52 percent decline compared with the same period last year.
However, the Kingdom has tread carefully, with a series of requirements and measures regarding aviation for people wishing to travel to Cambodia.
These include: COVID-19 health certificates valid within 72 hours of departure from country of origin, $50,000 minimum health insurance policy, temperature checks, mask wearing and with effect from June 12, depositing $3,000 upon arrival to cover any expenses required during the quarantine and testing process, which all new arrivals must go through.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that foreign arrival costs per person will also include a $5 transportation fee from the airport to the designated quarantine hotels, $100 for one COVID-19 test, around $30 per 24-hour stay at a hotel or waiting centre and $30 for three meals per day, during the quarantine period.
Furthermore, if any passenger tests positive for the virus, every passenger on the same flight will be quarantined for the 14-day duration at designated quarantining venues.
If tested positive, patients will be charged $225 a day for the hospital room, medical treatment, meals, laundry and sanitary services it added, stating that in the worst case scenario, in case of death, a cremation service charge is $1,500.
State Secretariat for Civil Aviation spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha said that last month, 17,796 passengers arrived in the Kingdom via the Phnom Penh International Airport, 2,932 via Sihanoukville and 90 via Siem Reap.
However, the spokesman could not say how many people had flown in or measures taken since the new ruling on the $3,000 deposit was introduced.
In response to the lack of concrete information on the new measures, foreigners who have come to Cambodia have taken to social media to talk about their experiences flying in during the past week.
Adam Machaj, who arrived from Guangzhou, China on Sunday, said on Facebook that he has only paid $200 for a two-night stay at a hotel and $150 for a coronavirus test.
French national Fina Choukatli who flew from France to Phnom Penh via Amsterdam with Air Korea and arrived on June 12 also did not pay a deposit.
“I only paid for my two-night stay, which was at Okay Palace Hotel and it cost a total of $80, including breakfast. I also didn’t pay for my test,” she said. “Overall, I found the whole process pretty good, from the airport to quarantine. They are doing a good job to keep the Kingdom safe.”
“If anything, I would say there could have been better communication. For instance, I wasn’t told about the progress of my tests or what happened next at any point. Luckily, we used social media to talk to other passengers and get updates on the situation, but it was a guessing game as it’s different for everyone,” Ms Choukatli added.
Both passengers said their flights were up to five times more expensive than usual.
Expat groups on social media have also echoed concerns over the $3,000 deposit.
One man on social media living in Cambodia, who asked not to be named, said: “I wouldn’t trust depositing that amount of money on arrival. You would be lucky to get it back.”
Another said: “It’s like imposing a travel ban on anyone but the rich. If you can afford to lose $3,000 then you can get in, but it will be a deterrent for most people, especially tourists who boost the economy massively. I don’t think it’s a good move.”
26-year-old British national Alice Shaw is one such tourist who says she would love to travel to the Kingdom but is put off by the measures.
“I was due to travel to Cambodia earlier this year, but my flight was cancelled. At the time I thought I was lucky as the outbreak of coronavirus was escalating,” she said. “However, now airlines are starting to run again and Cambodia has the virus under control, I would love to finally visit.”
“I would be happy to take the tests to show I am COVID-19 free and already have a valid health insurance policy as per the requirements, but I don’t have $3,000 to deposit on top of the substantially increased flight costs. I will have to wait until the deposit is waived. I’m also not 100 percent sure why the deposit is necessary when my health insurance would cover any potential costs if I tested positive,” Ms Shaw added.
Local entrepenuer, Van David, told Khmer Times the $3,000 deposit required is steep and has led to various people cancelling their trips and airlines retracting planned flights to the Kingdom.
“If you were seriously infected and hospitalised in Singapore, the costs would be much higher than in Cambodia. Nonetheless, the proposed deposit to enter Cambodia is more than twice the cost of the treatment in Singapore,” he said.
Mr David added the measures portray a scary message, which has stirred up all the wrong emotions that has led to mistrust and non-confidence in the situation in the country.