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Lao Govt Suspends Tourist Visas, Closes All Education Institutions

Source: Vientiane Times

The government has suspended the issuance of visas for foreign tourists for 30 days and suspended all levels of education in the latest move to prevent coronavirus (Covid-19), Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith announced yesterday.

All types of visas on arrival and electronic visas (E-visas) are suspended, the premier said as he concluded the first day of the monthly cabinet meeting for March when measures to prevent and control the virus dominated the discussion.

Those already holding an entry visa need to get a health certificate from the concerned authorities and declare their movement history. The cabinet temporary revokes visa exemptions previously granted to some countries.

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“It means (citizens of countries previously granted visa exemptions) need to approach the [Lao] embassy or consulate applying for entry visa,” he said, adding that this measure applies until further notice.

The government has intensified preventive measures, despite there being no confirmed case of the virus infection in Laos as of yesterday.

The PM said Lao people travelling from outbreak countries are required to impose selfisolation for 14 days. The premier announced the closure of all entertainment venues including karaoke and massage venues. 

Other businesses can continue operations and services with the operators employing necessary protective measures, including taking the temperature of customers and providing alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

All state and private educational facilities from preschools through to universties will be closed until further notice – an expansion from the previous announcement by the Ministry of Education and Sports that ordered the closure of just preschools, kindergarten and primary schools.

PM Thongloun warned Lao people to avoid travelling to foreign countries, especially by aeroplane or any crowded vehicle.

He told the meeting to advise oversees Lao people (who plan to come back to Laos) to suspend their travel plans until the outbreak is under control.

Authorities suggested the designate of isolation facilities for those travelling from outbreak countries including Lao students and workers expected to come back during the upcoming Lao New Year scheduled for the middle of April.

In Vientiane, four hospitals – Mittaphab Hospital, Mahosot Hospital, Setthethirath Hospital and 103 Hospital have been designated for the isolation.

In the provinces, suspected patients will be isolated at provincial hospitals.

The head of the government told members of the public to avoid any crowded events including celebrations for the upcoming Lao New Year as well as traditional festivals, product fairs, wedding parties, and sporting events.

The premier called for more campaigns to raise public awareness about the virus and preventative measures. The meeting called for the training of officials involved in preparing the prevention and control effort while coordinating with foreign countries and international organisations to seek assistance and expertise support when needed.

Authorities in charge were asked to define the necessary equipment and supplies with a purchase plan, especially face masks, hand sanitiser and protective clothing for medical doctors.

Equipment needed support from friendly countries and international organisations had to be approached urgently so the government could proceed with the request, the premier suggested.

He warned traders and distributors not to sell preventive equipment for unreasonable gain, especially face masks and hand sanitiser, saying the government will take firm action. The head of the government also warned those circulating fake news, which triggered panic would face punitive measures. 

The cabinet was told to work harder in promoting more local production, especially daily consumption goods, to ensure sufficient supplies amid limited exports from countries in the region and reported shortages in several nations.

Today, the cabinet will consider and discuss economic stimulus measures proposed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The measures will be announced later. The premier called for members of the public not too panic, but to stay vigilant. “All the above-mentioned measures will be updated and revised according to the changing circumstances,” he said.