My name is R.S. I am a Cambodian student who just recently graduated from a university in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. Since my course was complete, I had to withdraw from my university and return to my home country. A lot of my friends from Malaysia and Cambodia and my family were all worried about my journey back home, and most of them were also interested in how the traveling and quarantine procedures are carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, I decided to write a blog showing my experience while I was traveling and also in a quarantine camp to show you the procedures. This blog contains some pictures which weren’t meant to be taken especially at the airport; however, I am writing this blog just to inform and give a heads up to Cambodian students who are currently planning to return to Cambodia.
I flew from Kuching (in Sarawak) to Kuala Lumpur from 7AM to 9AM on 16th July 2020. Kuching Airport was not crowded at that time but there were quite a number of people on my plane. I was required to fill a health declaration form in order to board the plane. No testing was conducted or required before leaving Kuching, Sarawak.
As I landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I exited the aircraft as usual. Travelers and airport staffs were required to wear masks all the time. Hand sanitizers were given at convenient places. I want to honestly advise to keep extra masks and hand sanitizers with you all the time. The restaurants and shopping stores inside KLIA2 Airport were all closed. Make sure to have some food on your way to KLIA2. Gloves are a good protection only when you do not touch your face and your personal bag. I found the gloves inconvenient because I needed to use my phone all time and reach inside my bag. However, the gloves got torn, and I had to replace the gloves again.
For those who travel through AirAsia, the allowable luggage weight policy has been changed. I encountered this problem, and this is why I want to give you a heads up. Before the pandemic, AirAsia allowed travelers to purchase 40kg Check-in luggage, carry a maximum 7kg hand-carry luggage and extra backpack or bags for a computer. However, during this pandemic, AirAsia revised their policy and still allowed purchasing 40kg Check-in luggage but the hand-carry luggage and the extra backpack MUST BE 7KG in total. I had to purchase extra weight in order to reach the immigration check in KILA2. If you have already purchase 40kg and you need more weight, an extra 1kg will cost 50RM. So be sure to check your total luggage weight.
As I reached the Immigration Check in KILA2, not many travelers were there due to the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) which prohibited Malaysian from traveling abroad (with exceptions). Then, I had to remove my face cover along with the mask and scan my fingerprints for my identity identification. Later, I proceeded to scan my belongings, reach the gate, and board the plane.
Just before I landed in Cambodia, I was given two forms: the Immigration form and Health Declaration form. Make sure to fill them and keep a pen in your pocket.
As I landed in Phnom Penh International Airport (Cambodia), I left the aircraft and walked to the Immigration Check. Foreigners and Cambodians were separated. Some or most foreigners were required to enter a different path to obtain Visa or Visa-on-arrival, purchasing Health Insurance (for COVID-19) and eventually reached the Immigration Check. Cambodians just proceeded straight from the aircraft to the Immigration Check. Make sure you keep your boarding pass for a later process.
The Immigration Check scrutinized my Immigration Form, Health Declaration Form, Boarding Pass, Passport, and Visa. My passport was taken by the Immigration for the time being and would be given after the quarantine was over. Then I proceeded to collect my luggage.
After the Immigration Check and the luggage collection, all travelers including Cambodians were led to the Health Examination room for COVID-19. I was not allowed to take pictures inside but I took from the outside just for demonstration purposes.
I was required to show my seat identification using my boarding pass. It is important to keep your boarding pass until you reach this step. I was led inside and seated on a chair. My personal information was also printed out from my flight itinerary; however, extra information was needed such as passport number, date of birth and age. (The staffs and medics were able to speak English and Chinese very well). Then, I received a Swab Test through the nose and throat, and later I was allowed to exit the examination room. Just after this room, there was a hotel booking service which only allowed foreigners to register. At the end of the building, there were buses waiting for all travelers. The buses would lead only to two destinations which are Hotel (for foreigners) and Quarantine Camp (for Cambodians). At this stage, I am unsure if Cambodians were allowed to stay in the hotel because I did ask for that option but I was denied registering for hotel.
One bus may accept only 20-25 passengers. Some of the drivers may sell sim cards here (Metfone) and Top-up cards. Everyone was not allowed to leave. The bus would not stop for any other destination. Police cars and motorcycles were there to escort all of the buses to their respective destination and to ensure no one was left behind or escaped.
Once I arrived at the quarantine camp, I was told to drop my belongings here. I had to complete the compliance form (shown above) to declare my willingness to comply and my choice of place for quarantine. Two options were written on the paper: Hotel (bearing your own cost) or Quarantine Camp (no cost). However, in my case, the Hotel option was called off (cancelled) by the Health Ministry of Cambodia. Thus, I had no other choice but to stay in the camp for 2-3 days until I got the test results.
It is important to understand that different flights may have different quarantine camp(s) and different hotel option(s) selected by the Health Ministry of Cambodia.
After the form was complete, I was asked to form a group of 8 people who I was about to share my room with. When the group was formed, the group can go and select the room of their choice. For those who could not form a group, they can go straight to choose the room and wait for others to join.
It would be best if you make friends here immediately so that any of you can look after each other’s belongings and share information quickly and efficiently.
In my case, I formed a group with my senior from my university in Cambodia.
At this point, if anyone had family or relatives who came to collect the luggage or anything else, those items must be sanitized first (shown in the picture). The staff sanitized by pouring alcohol or sanitizer on your belongings. Your belongings will get soaked so make sure you wrap your luggage in plastic.
I was asked to stay in this quarantine camp (សាលាបុរី១០០ខ្នង) until I received my test result from the airport. The duration of the stay also depends on the results of all flight passengers who are in the quarantine camp.
Your family and visitors can visit you and talk to you here but from a safe distance of at least 2m. You can pass your luggage to them but the items must be sanitized first from inside out. Even as small as a coin must also be sanitized with alcohol before you pass to them. Every SOP and Social distancing are strictly adhered to especially in this camp. You can also receive stuffs from your visitors too. I will explain later the process of how to visit people in a quarantine camp.
Everyone eventually found a room to stay in. It was a tough process because some people just moved in and moved out until they found a room they liked. Only 8 people were allowed to stay in one room. I was supplied with a bed, a pillow, a blanket, and a mosquito net. These items are surprisingly newly purchased. I was also provided with free meals three times a day too. There was no charge for anyone who chose to stay in the quarantine camp where the health ministry bore the cost.
If you need to purchase mask, you can go to this LINK to purchase and also support local products of Cambodia. Delivery is also available.
There were electricity in each room but very few electrical sockets. I would recommend bringing cable extensions with sockets along. There were very few or none mosquito on my floor because I heard it was too high for them to climb to the 3rd or 4th floor. I recommend staying on high floors.
The toilet and shower room were not good in this camp. It was a bit disgusting for me, but just bear with it for a few days. I recommend bringing liquid soap to clean the area first before you shower. And, do not brush your teeth with this water. Try brushing with drinking bottled water. Do bring toilet paper or baby wipes if you are familiar with using toilet spray or toilet paper.
Even though I was born and raised in Cambodia for my entire life, I do not find the climate here enjoyable. The weather is always hot and sweaty for most people. In the quarantine camp, we were supposed to sleep with a mask on. However, I do not think anyone could ever do that because the ceiling fans were not enough, and the sweat seeped through the mask and blocked the filters. Thus, we all slept without a mask. It was risky but we had no choice. I do recommend staying in a hotel if possible and affordable because, in my case, the hotel option was called off.
HOW TO SAFELY VISIT PEOPLE IN QUARANTINE CAMP
The area is divided into two zones: Safe zone and Quarantine zone. The safe zone is where the staffs, guards, policemen, medics and others are working and controlling the camp. The quarantine zone is where travelers from abroad are staying in (the building). In order to effectively control the situation, we have to assume the worst scenario where everyone is infected and infectious.
Visitors can enter the quarantine camp through the entrance which is in the safe zone. However, policemen are there to keep visitors 1-2m away from the quarantine zone. Visitors can also enter and send stuffs to the people inside by putting them on this table and leave. Later, the receiver will come and collect. The isolated people can also send items back to the visitors but the items must all be sanitized from inside out. Policemen are there to sanitize and make sure it is safe for visitors.
No one (not even medics or policemen) can cross the zone. Only when one is found positive or showing symptoms, then the medics or doctors will enter and escort the person to the hospital.
HOW MY QUARANTINE ENDED
I stayed there for two days and one night. The situation was calm, and no one has been reported having fever, elevated temperature, difficulties in breathing, uncontrollable cough and any other symptom.
Luckily, the test results were unexpectedly announced at 10PM on the second day, and NO ONE was tested positive. Thus, everyone was allowed to leave the camp and travel to their own respective home province. The passport was returned to its original holder but a letter was attached.
Everyone must be self-quarantined at home by living in isolation from their family: using private bathroom, bedroom, toilet, and mostly everything else. Physical contact or even shared meal should not be made either. Mask must be worn and hands must be always sanitized or washed.
The self-quarantine at their respective home province will proceed until 29th July 2020 (or 13 days after leaving the camp). On that date, the people will have to get the second test for COVID-19 at their nearest provincial healthcare center.
The letter attached is shown below.
For non-Cambodians, the letter reads:
“Please continue your self-quarantine at home after your first negative test result for COVID-19 and adhere strictly to these principles responsibly:
- Wear mask all the time
- Do not leave your house or the quarantine area
- Maintain social distancing from other people at least 2m apart
- Return and get another test on the 13th day of your quarantine period (The day you arrive in Cambodia is already Day 1)
- For Phnom Penh Residents: Please proceed to get tested at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital or Chak Angre Hospital.
- For provincial residents: Please proceed your test at the nearest Provincial Hospital.
For more information, please contact 115
We wish you a safe stay in Cambodia”
In my opinion, visitors may be allowed to visit people in self-quarantine at home as long as Social Distancing is practiced and maintained.
Moreover, there are some principles or tips that can be followed for self-quarantined people at home:
1. Stay in your room all the time.
2. Do not share common space, bathroom, meal, or personal belongings with other people.
3. Wear mask and sanitize your hands whenever you go out and meet people but keep 1-2m apart and within your quarantine area.
4. Anything that is used by you must be sanitized before handing over to other people.
5. Keep track of your temperature and breathing.
6. Report any symptom you feel.
On 19th July 2020, I have already left the quarantine camp and now I am being quarantined at home for another 10 days until I get my second test for COVID-19. I am doing fine with no symptoms or anything else. I always wear a mask and sanitize my hands before leaving my room to get something inside my house. I also keep distance and avoid touching my family members.
I am writing this article to help Cambodian students who are about to return to Cambodia, show what the quarantine camp feels like, and give tips in order to be more prepared when entering a quarantine camp. I hope this helps. Stay safe and best of luck.
FAQ – Frequently asked questions
- How much does the test of COVID-19 cost in the Airport?
a. Travelers holding Cambodian Passport or Cambodian Nationality do NOT have to pay for the test for COVID-19 at the airport. Neither will they have to pay for the quarantine procedures in the quarantine camp selected by the ministry.
HOWEVER, if the Cambodian travelers have the chance to be quarantined at a hotel and choose to do so, they will BEAR THE COST only for hotel and food.
Hotel may cost 30 USD for one day, and food may cost 30 USD for one day (I am not exactly sure).
b. For foreigners entering Cambodia, they will have to purchase insurance first before proceeding to the COVID-19 test room. According to the article by Khmer times, foreigners must deposit 3000$ (either by cash or credit card) at the airport for the COVID-19 prevention services. I will provide the cost summary as shown below:
“5$ for a single trip between the airport and waiting center
100$ for a COVID-19 test
30$ for a day’s stay at a hotel or a waiting center
30$ for three meals during their wait”
More information about insurance for foreigners, insurance refund, a positive case in the camp, treatment cost, death or cremation services can be found here: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/732611/foreigners-to-be-charged-for-c-19-quarantine-tests/