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Laos Suspends Charter Flights & Entry Visas From Outbreak Countries

Source: Vientiane Times and others

The government will no longer issue entry visas for people travelling to Laos from countries with a community outbreak of Covid-19, the national taskforce has announced.

The move is part of new measures being imposed until December 31 to prevent and control the pandemic. The government updates these measures on a monthly basis.

Charter flights between countries that have a community outbreak of the virus are also suspended, apart from humanitarian flights, Vice Chairman of the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control Dr Bounkong Syhavong told a press conference on Friday.

The tougher measures were introduced after 14 people including a Lao national were confirmed on Monday to be carrying the virus.

They tested positive while in quarantine in Vientiane after arriving in Laos. Authorities were asked to scrutinise permitted charter flights to ensure they were not carrying anyone transiting from a country that had a community outbreak.

The government is allowing celebrations to mark special occasions as Laos celebrates the 45th National Day and the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late President Kaysone Phomvihane, who spearheaded the revolutionary fight for national liberation.

However, the number of participants must be defined appropriately and everyone must comply with Covid-19 prevention measures such as social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing a face mask.

The government will also continue to allow the traditional festivals of ethnic groups to take place, as well as social activities. If a festival is planned at the provincial or district level, the organisers must obtain permission from a provincial governor or the Mayor of Vientiane.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has been asked to work with authorities to raise public awareness of the need to remain vigilant as the pandemic is still active in many countries.

“This means everyone must step up their responsibilities in actively complying with Covid-19 prevention, control and solution measures,” Dr Bounkong, who is Minister of Health, said.

The government has instructed the Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Public Security to work closely with local authorities to ensure people do not cross the border illegally, to prevent more cases of Covid-19 entering the country.

So far, Laos has recorded 39 cases of the virus including 24 people who have been discharged from hospital. The most recent cases were all people who entered Laos from other countries. Laos has not recorded any case of internal infection for more than seven months.

Dr Bounkong said authorities would assess the implementation of the measures regularly and revisions would be made as necessary. If changes are made, the authorities will notify everyone concerned.

Laos will continue its suspension on the issuance of tourist visas for foreign visitors, however, people diplomats and foreign workers with an urgent need for travel can apply for special authorization. International borders will remain closed to all regular travelers except Lao citizens or foreigners with authorization from the Taskforce.

The updated Covid-19 prevention measures will remain in place until 31 December.