First Post-Covid Commercial Flight Lands in Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville has welcomed its first international flight after a two-year pandemic-fueled hiatus, sparking fresh hopes of economic recovery as the Prime Minister confirms Khmer New Year celebrations will go ahead.
Sihanoukville town. Picture: Sam
Sihanoukville town. Picture: Sam

The first commercial flight to land in Preah Sihanouk province since the pandemic started two years ago touched down on Sunday, as Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Khmer New Year celebrations will go ahead in April.

Hun Sen made the announcement at the opening of a new Chinese funded hospital in Tbong Khmum province. He added that despite the number of foreign tourists remaining small, there are signs that the economy will return to normal.

“Vaccine is the economy, why I say it’s the economy is because if we don’t have vaccines, maybe this year we won’t celebrate the New Year and not even that, people will die on the New Year. But this year, the New Year will go on,” he said.

This year’s Khmer New Year celebrations will be the first time following two years of cancellations in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid.

Hun Sen said an estimated 190,000 local tourists traveled at the weekend and the first plane landing at Sihanoukville International Airport was a positive sign.

“Last night was the first time with months of closure that a commercial airplane landed in Preah Sihanouk province. In recent months, we had some flights to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh but last night, we had the first flight in Preah Sihanouk province and there will be more flights, the economy will go as normal,” he said.

Hun Sen attributed this to the high rate of vaccinations and warned people and his officials of Omicron. Five of his grandchildren tested positive in addition to three other provincial governors of Kompong Cham, Kampot and Takeo. He said they have now all recovered.

A total of 36 percent of more than 600,000 children aged three to four have already received vaccines, Hun Sen said. He added that Omicron is spreading fast among children.

Hun Sen did not say which airline landed at Sihanoukville and how many passengers it was carrying.

An employee at Cambodia Airports, the company that runs the airport, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Ministry of Health reported 306 Covid-19 cases on Monday all Omicron. This brings the total cases of the variant to 11,204.