Cambodia tightens measures against coronavirus

April 28: With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe, there are hardly any countries which have managed to stay unaffected by this crisis. The South-East Asian nation has, at present, 122 confirmed cases with zero fatalities.

While that may sound like a small number, there are also over 8,900 suspected cases, which, if confirmed in the coming days and weeks, would cause a spike like that seen in other nations where this virus has taken root. The first case in Cambodia was confirmed on 27th January 2020, since when the government has taken many measures to try to control the spread as much as possible.

While the Cambodian government was sceptical about the spread of the virus at first, it began to act quickly once case numbers began to increase. In late March, the prime minister ordered bars and restaurants across the country to close, while restricting visas for foreign visitors and tourists. At the same time, the government has also announced a stimulus package of about 3% of the country’s GDP (around $2 billion) to help businesses and people who will inevitably suffer due to the shutdowns and drop in economic activity that are sure to follow. The economic impact cannot be understated – especially in a country which depends so heavily on tourism. Almost 33% of Cambodia’s GDP comes from tourism, which has already dropped by over 60% this year.

Estimates from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are that tourism revenues will fall by $350 million to $850 million, or 1.4%-3.5% of the country’s GDP. Additionally, Cambodia has a huge reliance on China from a supply-side point-of-view, with its garments sector depending on China for raw materials. It is estimated that over 160,000 workers in Cambodian garment factories will be laid off in the coming weeks. Overall, this crisis is expected to cause a drop of anywhere between 1% and 3% in GDP, or around $300 to $700 million dollars.

Cases have started to go up slightly in recent weeks, leading the prime minister to order all casinos to close from 1st April. This is likely to hit economic activity even further, as Cambodia is something of a gambling den in the region. There are over 125 casinos in the country, with one of the largest operators, NagaCorp, reporting revenues of over $1.8 billion last year. With casinos closed, casino online slots are the only opportunity for players to enjoy gambling at home until then the outbreak of coronavirus in Cambodia is over. Further, the government has tightened measures even more, cancelling the Khmer New Year celebrations, shutting massage parlours and spas, halting rice exports to safeguard stockpiles, and prohibiting travel across the country except for essential services for a week starting from 10th April.

This is probably just the beginning of the outbreak in Cambodia if we look at the trajectory of the virus in other countries. While the government has taken steps to mitigate some of the problems, there is a lot more work needed and a lot more relief will be required, especially as more and more people lose their jobs and companies shut down due to loss of revenue.

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