Ayana Journeys is monitoring the situation closely, and the health and safety of our guests is always top priority. This blog post provides updates and aims to address some common concerns from our clients. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Disclaimer: We are not medical practitioners and have created this content by reading and digesting relevant official websites for reference. We will be updating this page as often as possible, but encourage all readers to also do their own research, and to talk to their travel Doctor and insurance provider. If you notice any mistakes in this blog post, please let us know.
Last updated: 19th March 2020
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses (including MERS and SARS) that can infect both humans and animals. The viruses primarily impact an infected person’s respiratory system, and can cause illness ranging from a common cold to a more serious disease (e.g. pneumonia), and in rare cases death.
There is currently an ongoing global outbreak of COVID-19, a coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. While the vast majority of diagnosed cases have to-date been in China there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases in a growing number of other countries.
On 12th March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.
People infected with COVID-19 may experience the following symptoms:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as (dry) coughing, sore throat, and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment (WHO).
Some people will recover easily, while others may become very unwell very quickly. Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart problems, and chronic lung disease or other respiratory conditions. About 2% of people with the disease have died (WHO).
It has been suggested that the incubation period for COVID-19 may be up to 27 days, however the WHO suggest that 2 – 14 days is likely in most cases. As such, isolation of up to 14 days is generally being recommended by most sources.
Should I travel?
The WHO has stated that the outbreak of COVID-19 should not be cause for any travel or trade restrictions:
“In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions. Furthermore, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries.”
Customers should always refer to their home-country official travel advisory for any advice or restrictions, for example:
- UK – https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/cambodia/health#coronavirus
- Australia – https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/coronavirus-covid-19
- USA – https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Cambodia.html
Important update – On 14th March it was announced that Cambodia is temporarily banning entry to visitors from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the US.
What is happening in Cambodia?
We understand there are currently 37 confirmed cases of the virus in Cambodia.
All schools and educational institutions across the country are currently closed until 20th April.
A lot of confusion was stirred up over the story of the cruise ship that docked in Cambodia. From what we understand there is no greater risk of the virus as a result of whatever happened with those passengers.
How can I protect myself?
We think this is a great list of advice on what to do to protect yourself in general:
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you feel unwell, stay at home, do not attend work or school.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash hands with soap and water.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.
- Use of face-masks is generally not recommended outside clinical settings. Should you decide to use a mask (or it is a requirement at your destination), you should ensure you continue to use all the recommended precautions in order to minimise the risk of transmission.
On a lighter note, we’d love to share this video from our friends at Epic Arts NGO! The song aims to promote inclusive hygiene and hand washing across Cambodia, and is a timely reminder during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Should I alter my travel plans?
Consider your destination
To our understanding, swift diagnosis and isolation of a COVID-19 patient is integral to both the recovery of the patient and the prevention of spreading the infection further. The Cambodian Ministry of Health has designated three hospitals in Phnom Penh (Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, National Pediatric Hospital, and Kunthabopha Hospital), and 25 Provincial Referral Hospitals as medical facilities that can order a test for, and treat, suspected cases of COVID-19.
Based on medical facilities available, we recommend considering destinations you visit in-country are no more than 4 hours away from either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, so that these are within easy reach of you.
Visiting wet markets
The initial outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus is believed to have taken place in a wet market in Wuhan, China. As such, the WHO has released specific advice for those visiting wet markets:
- Wash hands with soap and water after touching animals or animal products.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid contact with sick animals and spoiled meat.
- Avoid contact with stray animals, waste, and fluid in the market.
What if I get sick in Cambodia?
Following the advice from the Cambodian Ministry of Health and WHO Cambodia, we have concluded this is the relevant ‘action plan’:
- If you are showing COVID-19 symptoms, you should immediately isolate yourself (e.g. hotel room), and call 115.
- Inform the relevant local authorities (Soviet Friendship Hospital and Institut Pasteur du Cambodge in Phnom Penh, and the Provincial Referral Hospital in Siem Reap) and request up-to-date information on Government approved protocol.
- Enquire as to whether any other people in the group (where applicable) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and isolate if so.
- Comply with local authority’s approved procedure, which may or may not involve testing all guests and accompanying staff for COVID-19.
- Local authorities may send someone to the individual for testing or require them to visit a suitable facility requiring some travel (during the journey precautions against transmission need to be taken).
- If the individual tests positive for COVID-19, we are obliged and committed to following whatever the local authority’s approved procedure is at the time of positive diagnosis (as the COVID-19 outbreak is a global public health issue).
- Taking into consideration the advice of multiple government bodies and the WHO, it is highly likely that a person that tests positive for COVID-19 will be isolated. If the local authorities require that a person with COVID-19 is admitted to hospital for isolation, we must respect that protocol. It is most likely that admission would be to either the Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, or the Provincial Referral Hospital in Siem Reap.
References / Further reading
- Advice for travel: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/coronavirus-covid-19
- Aus Govt Cambodia advice: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/cambodia
- How to self-isolate: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/
- COVID-19 overview: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- Common questions: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/common-questions/
- UK Govt. advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
- NHS advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/advice-for-travellers/
- Precautions for care-givers: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html#precautions
- Preventing spread of COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fpreparing-individuals-communities.html
- Symptoms: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov#symptoms
- WHO advice for public: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
- WHO travel advice: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/travel-advice and https://www.who.int/ith/2019-nCoV_advice_for_international_traffic-rev/en/
Photo credit: Emily Lush