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Lao Govt Eases Covid-19 Prevention Measures To Mitigate Economic Impact

Source: Vientiane Times

The government has decided in principle to allow visits to Laos by tour groups from countries where there is no community outbreak of Covid-19, the Prime Minister’s Office has said.

It has also decided in principle to resume charter flights with countries where there is no outbreak, according to a notification issued on Wednesday to update Covid-19 prevention and control measures.

These moves are aimed at mitigating the economic impact of Covid-19, particularly on the tourism industry, the sector that was hit hardest after the pandemic forced many countries to impose lockdowns.

Authorities have been asked to prepare for implementing the easing of policies with Japan.

The government has also decided to continue discussions with China and Vietnam to work out measures to implement fast-track immigration policies with the two neighbours.

Quarantine measures are also being relaxed so that travellers from countries with no community outbreak will only be required to get tested and wait 48 hours for the results. Virus-free travellers can undergo quarantine at home or places arranged by their employers. Previously, travellers were required to undergo 14-day quarantine at centres or hotels designated by the government.

The relevant authorities have been instructed to identify target groups that will benefit from the relaxation of quarantine measures.

The government has also decided in principle to charge a basic cost for testing for Covid-19. The National Task Force for Covid-19 Prevention and Control and relevant sectors will work together to determine this service fee.

The National Task Force has been entrusted to work with relevant sectors to draw up measures to realise all the above-mentioned measures, while at the same time ensuring that no Covid-19 case can enter the country.

In addition, the cabinet has given the green light to organise the annual festival that marks the end of Buddhist Lent. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has been tasked to work with central and local authorities to issue instructions for organising the festival and wedding parties while ensure that the virus cannot spread.

The Lao government updates its Covid-19 prevention and control measures every month. The measures are being eased as no new confirmed case of Covid-19 has been recorded in Laos for weeks. Most recent cases involved people coming into Laos.

The latest easing of measures will remain in force until October 31. However, authorities will regularly assess the situation and make changes when neccessary.

“There will be a review and assessment of the implementation (of the measures), and in case there are changes, the government will announce them,” the Vice Chairman of the National Task Force for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, Dr Phouthone Meaungpark, told the media on Wednesday.

Along with the easing of certain measures, other restrictions imposed by the government will continue, such as:
Closure of entertainment and karaoke venues.

Closure of traditional and local border checkpoints, except those permitted by the government for transporting goods.

International checkpoints will remain closed to regular travellers except for essential crossings by Lao and foreign nationals who are permitted by the Task Force Committee. Transportation of goods via the international checkpoints is allowed as normal.

Suspension on issuing tourist or visit visas for those travelling from or transiting via countries with Covid-19 outbreaks. Diplomats, staff of international organisations, experts, investors, businesspeople, technical staff and workers deemed essential for missions in Laos can enter the country upon approval by the Task Force Committee.