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PM Extends Restrictions For Virus Control, Some Eased To Minimise Economic Impact

Source: Vientiane Times

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has told the cabinet to continue to strictly enforce measures to prevent and control the coronavirus, even though there are positive signs that Laos is on track to containing the disease.

After no new confirmed cases of the virus were recorded for 11 consecutive days, health authorities said it was a good trend and if this record could be maintained for another three consecutive days, making 14 days in total, some restrictions could be eased.

Speaking at the cabinet’s monthly meeting on April 23, the prime minister told the cabinet to remain tough in enforcing his Order No. 6 which imposes tougher prevention and control measures, and measures imposed by the relevant authorities.

He noted that some countries have witnessed a second wave of infections from the virus (known as Covid-19) and called for Lao authorities to remain vigilant.

Lao nationals working in neighbouring countries and foreign experts working in Laos will be quarantined upon entering Laos at special centres set up by the government.

“Quarantining at home is not allowed,” government spokesman Prof. Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher told a press conference when delivering the PM’s messages and the outcomes of the video conference.

The premier gave the advice after receiving reports on Covid-19 prevention and control efforts and the impact on the Lao economy, and debates by cabinet members.

The stringent measures will remain in place until May 3.

Prime Minister Thongloun told the National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control to identify red, yellow and green zones, which indicate risky, less risky and no-risk zones for the virus respectively.
Measures to prevent and control the virus in each zone should also be specified so that the easing of restrictions in each zone could be assessed differently.

To date, there have been 19 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Laos, which were reported in capital Vientiane and in Luang Prabang province. But all parts of the country are carrying out uniform prevention and control measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

To minimise the impact on the economy, the government has agreed to ease some restrictions so that processing industries, whose practices meet Covid-19 prevention and control measures, can resume operation after weeks of suspension under the Prime Minister’s Order.

The prime minister told the national taskforce committee in charge of economic affairs in dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on the economy to take steps to fulfil the 10 policies and nine measures adopted by the government to minimise the impact.

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These include tax and tariff incentives, the postponement of tax payments by tourism-related businesses, and lowering the basic interest rate charged by the Bank of the Lao PDR. The central bank has been told to work with commercial banks to extend the time required to repay loans and interest, and charge businesses a lower interest rate.

Authorities were also told to remove barriers to transport after learning of the difficulties faced by transporters.

To help workers affected by the suspension of business operations and other forms of work, the prime minister asked officials to provide appropriate supporting allowances to employees who are members of the social security system (SSS).

The premier also told the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to consider a possible policy to support workers outside the SSS.

The meeting did not approve a proposal to reduce value-added tax on electricity and water supply, which was aimed at reducing charges, as it was deemed that such a reduction would significantly affect revenue collection.

Authorities were told to ask international financial institutions and Group of 20 countries (G20) to postpone debt repayments and designate a new interest rate on loans so Laos could recover from the impact of the outbreak.

PM Thongloun told the national taskforce committee in charge of economic affairs to continue to collect proposals made by businesses and outline possible solutions. The committee was told to draw up immediate, medium, and long-term recovery measures for when the outbreak is under control and to submit them to the government for consideration.