On Sunday, March 29, authorities announced sweeping legislation to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Measures include a nationwide lockdown; residents have been ordered to stay home except to necessary goods, seek medical assistance, or carry out work that has been expressly authorized by the government. Authorized business sectors include financial institutions, listed companies, medical services, post services, utilities, collection and treatment of waste, agricultural produce markets, retail shops, supermarkets, and restaurants for the provision of takeaway and delivery services only. Hotels and resorts may continue to function but only to provide accommodation and restaurant services.
All persons are prohibited from travelling to areas where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, or areas where the disease is considered a major risk. Non-essential government services have been suspended. Gatherings of more than 10 people have been prohibited, though special exemptions may be made for events such as funerals if safety precautions including mask-wearing and maintaining an interpersonal distance of at least two meters can be guaranteed.
Borders have been closed, though goods transportation may continue, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will attempt to coordinate the return of foreign nationals who wish to return to their home countries. Laos had previously instituted a number of restrictions on international arrivals to Laos, but foreigners are now prohibited from entering the country. Contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more information.
On Tuesday, March 31, the Laotian Minister of Health Bounkong Sihavong ordered all private hospitals and clinics closed.
These measures are expected to last until Sunday, April 19, but may be extended if the situation warrants it.
As of Thursday, April 2, Laos has 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no associated fatalities.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.