Lao Airlines, the national carrier, announced on Wednesday, February 26, that it will suspend flights to South Korea from Sunday, March 1, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The airline decided to temporarily suspend the service after a large number of passengers canceled their bookings. Normally, Lao Airlines operates one daily flight between the capital Vientiane and Seoul (South Korea). According to an airline spokesperson, it is unclear when service will resume to South Korea. Flight suspensions between Laos and China also remain in place as of February 26.
While no cases of the virus have been confirmed in Laos as of Wednesday, increased screening measures are in place at border crossing points with China and other ports of entry. Thermal scans are being conducted to determine if travelers are showing signs of coronavirus. The government has also warned citizens to avoid traveling to outbreak areas.
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 (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 more than 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
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.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to keep abreast of the situation, confirm flight reservations, and to contact their airline for additional information.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, individuals are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, individuals are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.