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Lockdown ! Govt Toughens Virus Prevention Measures

Source: Vientiane Times

The government yesterday announced to close all international checkpoints and prohibit public movement for non-essential activities for almost three weeks to control the coronavirus pandemic as fears of outbreak escalate.

All international checkpoints are closed for passengers exiting and entering, including to those previously granted permission but not yet acted upon.

The measures are imposed from March 30 to April 19 and changes could be made in accordance with further announcement.

All local checkpoints have already been closed earlier.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was told to work with the relevant sectors to facilitate foreign nationals who want to return to their home countries.
Goods transport is still permitted.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith yesterday issued an executive order intensifying prevention and control measures.

The measures are made following an emergency meeting between the cabinet and the National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control on Saturday.

People from all walks of life, including foreign expatriates in Laos, are not allowed to go out from their houses or accommodation for non-essential purposes.

People are permitted to go out just for essential activities such as buying items for their daily needs, including food, hospitals or for essential duties.

Those going out for agricultural production to ensure food security are encouraged to do so under the proper management of local authorities.

“Passenger transport is temporarily suspended,” the government’s Spokesman Prof Dr Chaleun Yiabaoher told a press conference shortly after the PM signed the order.

Civil servants were told to work from home for almost three weeks, starting from April 1-19.

This except those in charge of essential duties such as soldiers, police, medical doctors and nurses, electricity and water supply service providers, firefighters as well as telecommunications service providers and volunteers for the virus prevention.

During this break, ministries and organisations were told to assign teams to come to the office in rotation to ensure normal coordination in essential cases.

People are prohibited from travelling to other localities or risky areas where infections were reported, except for essential trips permitted by authorities such as goods transport or going to hospital.

“Health officials and other officials concerned must set up checkpoints to check their health, documents and detailed information (in this regard),” Dr Chaleun said.

The tightened measures are being imposed as eight people – five in Vientiane and three in northern Luang Prabang province – have been infected with the virus in Laos so far.

The five patients are being treated at Mittaphab Hospital in the capital, and the other three are being cared for at Luang Prabang provincial hospital. 

Outbreak fears in Laos escalated after thousands of Lao workers in neighbouring countries, especially Thailand, where a widespread outbreak was reported, have rushed home. The returnees were impacted by measures imposed by authorities in the neighbouring countries. There are fears they are carrying the virus.

Dr Chaleun said the latest measures the Lao government is imposing appear to be the toughest ones ever recorded against a virus outbreak.

The order prohibits the organising any event, party, celebration or meeting with more than 10 attendees in order to avoid crowded gatherings.

If the event is essential, the organiser must apply guidelines issued by health officials, including temperature checks, social distancing, wearing masks and handwashing.

Factories, including garment workshops and other major projects that are at risk of infection, were also ordered to close down temporarily. Those factories manufacturing goods essential for daily need such as pharmacies and consumption goods are encouraged to continue production. 

Entertainment venues, karaoke, beer shops, night markets, massage and spa service venues, witness or sporting centres were told to close down.
Referring to the PM’s order, the spokesman warned distributors and merchants, not to stock goods and increase prices unreasonably, especially food and medical equipment used for virus prevention.

Dr Chaleun warned those circulating fake news trigging fear or panic would face punitive measures.