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PM Takes Cambodia into “New Normal”

PHNOM PENH: Prime Minister Hun Sen has made the announcements we’ve all been waiting for. Without specifically announcing a formal end to the 20 February Community Transmission Event, he has taken the kingdom into a “new normal”. He wants flights reopened with other ASEAN countries as soon as possible and says the days of Covid-19 closures and lockdowns are over. He was speaking at Friday morning’s Plenary Meeting of the Council of Ministers.

On paper, it was a meeting of the Council of Ministers to discuss the 2022 budget, but major statements were made by the Prime Minister regarding moving Cambodia from the pandemic stage of Covid-19 to the endemic stage – living with the virus in the so-called “new normal”.

Firstly, he said, there are to be no more closures due to Covid-19 outbreaks. He says if there are cases reported at schools, markets, factories or other businesses, then those affected will be hospitalized, but the location itself will not be shuttered.

And then came the big news - the Prime Minister instructing ministries and institutions to review the possibility of reopening flights with ASEAN member countries, most especially Thailand, which has already announced it will allow fully-vaccinated people from Cambodia in with no quarantine from the 1st of November. The Prime Minister wants the kingdom to reciprocate with Thailand, while it also reopens routes with other ASEAN destinations:

"We need to look at the possibility of reopening the air route with Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta or any point of Indonesia, as well as the Philippines, which we have managed well for the airport. We have also reduced the amount of time it takes for quarantine, which could be part of the attraction that could lead to the reopening of safe tourism or vaccine tourism."

He also confirmed that the Health Ministry is no longer testing corpses for Covid-19, another signal that Cambodia’s new normal is here.

While Covid-19 was not specifically on the agenda of Friday’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, the draft law on finance for management in 2022 was. The Royal Government has set the total national budget expenditure at around $8.5 billion, equivalent to 27.95% of gross domestic product, which is an increase of 8.4% over 2021. The Prime Minister says the Royal Government aims to collect $6.3 billion in revenue across 2022, emphasising that the 2022 budget will focus on capacity building for the kingdom’s post-pandemic recovery.

PHOTO: Phal Sophup


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