On Tuesday, March 24, the Health Ministry announced the country's first two cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the capital Vientiane. Both patients had traveled abroad where they worked closely with foreigners, and they are currently being treated at an unspecified hospital.
The Lao government implemented entry restrictions for all international arrivals to the country since Monday, March 16, to limit the spread of COVID-19. Individuals arriving to the country who do not show any symptoms of the virus but meet any of the following criteria are required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they:
- Travel from countries that do not share a border with Lao and have recorded more than 100 COVID-19 cases - even if the individual does not show symptoms for the virus.
- Travel from countries that share a border with Laos but not from a neighboring province, and have recorded more than 10 COVID-19 cases - even if the individual does not show any symptoms.
- Travel from a neighboring province from a country that shares a border with Laos that has confirmed more than 3 COVID-19 cases - even if the individual does not show symptoms.
- Have been in close contact with an individual with COVID-19.
Individuals arriving to Laos with symptoms are required to isolate in a hospital to confirm diagnosis of the virus.
Authorities have temporarily closed all local border checkpoints, while the remaining international border crossing points have implemented increased screening measures.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith announced the temporary suspension of preschools and kindergartens nationwide on Tuesday, March 17.
Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
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 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.