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Travel & Leisure

Cambodia halts tourist visas for 1 month in tighter clampdown

Existing visa holders must test negative for coronavirus to gain entry

People eat breakfast at a restaurant near the  Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Feb. 19.   © Reuters

HANOI -- Cambodia will stop issuing tourist and entry visas for one month starting Monday as coronavirus outbreaks grow throughout Southeast Asia, the government said Saturday.

Travelers with valid existing visas will need to prove they have tested negative for the new coronavirus before entering the country.

Phnom Penh's move marks a change of approach for Cambodia, which had maintained looser entry restrictions than neighboring nations.

The clampdown comes as other governments in the region take stronger measures against the pandemic, with Thailand declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday and banning the entry of most foreigners.

Coronavirus cases in Cambodia have been creeping higher since mid-March. The total has topped 100, including about 30 French tourists in the same tour group who became infected last week. 

Authorities worry that a rapid increase in cases could overwhelm the country's health care system. Cambodia closed its borders to foreign nationals traveling from five Western nations and Iran on March 17.

Cambodia, which has one of the region's most China-leaning governments, had initially been wary of tightening travel restrictions partly out of concern for its economic and diplomatic ties with Beijing.

In February, Prime Minister Hun Sen flew to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping in February while the initial Chinese outbreak was raging.

Later that month, Cambodia allowed the cruise ship Westerdam to dock at the country after other nations shunned it for fear it was carrying infected passengers. Hun Sen welcomed passengers disembarking at Sihanoukville in person, shaking hands with some of them. 

But the rising number of coronavirus cases among foreign tourists and Cambodians returning from abroad has prompted Hun Sen's government to change its stance.

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