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‘Prior to reopening, the Kingdom may relax Covid regulations.'


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For much of the year, Cambodian cities have been restricted, but that could change as the government examines when to reopen the nation to foreign tourists and how long it can withstand the economic and social costs of forcing businesses to close.


The government shut down schools across the country in March and put a moratorium on movies, galleries, massage parlors, gyms, clubs, and museums. It outlawed eating in restaurants and cafes, as well as suspending alcohol sales in curfew zones.


The safeguards failed to prevent a lockdown in Phnom Penh in April and May, and since then, the forced closures of bars, gyms, karaoke clubs, and other businesses have been prolonged every two weeks. In July, bars were added to the list, along with an alcohol sales restriction. Restaurants were temporarily closed but reopened after public outrage if they could maintain social distance and a limit of 15 customers at any given time.


The country is already on its way to a three-day holiday to commemorate the Pchum Ben celebration. People will be unable to pay respects to their ancestors at temples after the government instructed them to stay away due to concerns about the Coronavirus. Many people believe it is time to lift the newest city limits, which are set to expire on the last day of the Pchum Ben vacation, and allow companies to prepare for the return of foreigners.


Thailand, which is considering reopening spas, movies, and museums, as well as lowering Bangkok's curfew by an hour, might teach Cambodia a lesson. From the beginning of next month, the Thai capital will be available to foreign visitors, according to the government. “The news we heard from Bangkok is quite encouraging.


Thailand recognizes that if no steps are done to restart the economy, the country's important organ will be severely damaged,” said Sothea Sambath, head of the Cambodia Business Council Association in Thailand.


In terms of vaccination, Cambodia is much ahead of its neighbor in terms of achieving Covid-19 herd immunity. According to the Reuters Coronavirus Tracker, Thailand has fully immunized 33% of its population, while Cambodia has given 73 percent of its citizens two injections.


After a vaccination drive for under-18s, schools in the Kingdom have reopened. This could have sparked a comeback of cases, which are approaching their July highs, despite the fact that cases in Thailand have declined substantially since peaking in August.


In a regional economic analysis released this week, the World Bank stated, "Despite rapid vaccination progress, risks of a protracted epidemic and further disruptions remain considerable, given sustained high numbers of illnesses and deaths."


The expense of Covid restrictions was also mentioned. “Disruptions to economic activity as a result of strict measures to contain the outbreak have resulted in job losses or reduced working hours, lowering household incomes,” the bank added. In March, only 69 percent of households' main earners were employed, down 13 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels, according to a poll.


In March, about 45 percent of households reported having a lower income than they did before the infection. While the Coronavirus may be here to stay for the foreseeable future, Sambath believes the country must now learn to adapt to the new normal.


“To get the economy back on track, we should cut the quarantine period for vaccinated visitors, tourists, and businesses to seven days and begin reopening leisure places such as movie theaters, spas, and food and beverage shops. I'm afraid that if we don't make these decisions, we'll face a worse collapse in the future, and it will take years for the country to recover,” he warned.


Some cities aren't expected to start next week. After a rise in the Delta variant, Siem Reap was placed under lockdown, and huge portions of the province were declared red zones. Since the lockdown began on September 17, the province has reported more than 200 Coronavirus cases every day.


Vaccination, according to World Health Organization Cambodia Representative Dr Li Ailan, is not enough protection even if big towns lift restrictions. She advises individuals to keep wearing masks, washing their hands frequently, staying 1.5 meters apart, avoiding cramped locations, avoiding crowds, and not touching others.

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