Laos Extends Covid Restriction Measures With View to Reopening Schools

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Vientiane, Laos by night (Photo: Hotels.com)
Vientiane, Laos by night (Photo: Hotels.com)

 

The Government of Laos has extended Covid-19 restriction measures but has included provisions for the reopening of schools in the near future.

The Prime Minister’s Office has issued a notice ordering Covid-19 restriction measures to continue for another 15 days across Laos until 14 November.

The notice states that the measures are necessary as the virus has spread across the country to almost every province, infecting more than 500 people per day in October, an increase of 27.6% compared to last month.

According to the notice, restrictions are necessary to ensure Lao citizens and foreign residents living in Laos are protected from Covid-19, while preventing as many deaths as possible.

However, at the same time, there is a need for balance between public health measures, administrative measures, and economic measures as the population must begin to live life in accordance with the “new normal”.

Vaccinations and testing, quarantine, and hospitalizations are to continue, while borders and checkpoints will remain closed.

Tourist and visitor visas will not be issued to foreigners, however diplomatic personnel, employees of international organizations, experts, and investors with an urgent requirement to enter the country will be granted entry but must comply with all Covid-19 prevention measures issued by the government.

Restrictions in Areas with Community Spread of Covid-19

Entertainment venues, cinemas, spas, karaoke bars, pubs, internet cafes, snooker halls, casinos, and internet cafes must remain closed across the country.

Massage parlors, beauty salons, barbershops, food gardens, tourist attractions must remain closed.

Factories and industrial plants in areas with community spread within the factory or the community except for factories that have been authorized by the Covid Taskforce to continue operations, factories that produce consumer goods, medicines or medical equipment. Factories that remain open must do so in strict compliance with Covid-19 prevention measures. Any factory that does not comply with all regulations and measures will be temporarily closed.

Individuals are prohibited from entering or exiting areas with community spread of Covid-19 except those with prior authorization from the Covid Taskforce or relevant authorities.

Indoor and outdoor fitness centers or stadiums must close, while outdoor exercise in public areas with a community spread of Covid-19 (red zones) is also prohibited.

All parties, gatherings, and social events are prohibited at any location.

Stockpiling, hoarding, or increasing the price of goods is prohibited.

Road traffic across Vientiane Capital and any province with community spread of Covid-19 is prohibited from 23:00 until 5:00, except for freight transportation vehicles, emergency vehicles, and vehicles of the Covid Taskforce or government officials undertaking their work.

Schools and educational institutions at every level are to remain closed in areas of community spread of Covid-19 except for schools with special conditions and measures for prevention and control that have been inspected and authorized by the Taskforce.

Meetings and conferences or other gatherings with more than 50 persons are prohibited including religious festivals and activities. Should any individual or organization, including government agencies, wish to hold a conference or gathering, it must request authorization from the Covid Taskforce.

Ministries, equivalent organizations, and businesses in Vientiane Capital and other provinces should ensure employees rotate personnel or work from home using electronic means. Those in at-risk groups including unvaccinated persons and pregnant women should work from home.

Eased Measures

Retail shops, supermarkets, minimarts, and fresh markets that comply with Covid-19 prevention measures may remain open. Covid-19 prevention measures must be fully implemented including temperature checks, wearing facemasks, and ensuring social distancing of at least one meter. All such retailers and market venues must strictly close by 9pm.

Funerals, wakes, and other religious services must be held in accordance with the instructions provided by the Covid Taskforce.

Massage parlors, beauty salons, and barbershops, may open in localities without community spread of Covid-19, however, service providers and patrons must be fully vaccinated, strictly implement infection Covid-19 prevention measures, and may open no later than 7pm.

Restaurants and cafes in localities without community spread may continue to provide dine-in services, however, tables must be organized at least one meter apart, while service of alcohol is prohibited. Restaurants must strictly comply with all Covid-19 prevention measures and restaurant owners, staff, and patrons must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Restaurants in areas with outbreaks of Covid-19 may provide takeaway services only.

Factories and plants in localities without community spread may continue operations but employees must receive two doses of Covid-19 vaccine and must not reside in an area with community spread (red zone). Factories that wish to house employees on site may do so but must first submit a plan to the Covid Taskforce for consideration.

Conferences or meetings may be held in areas that are not red zones but social distancing and other Covid-19 prevention measures must be strictly enforced. Participants and attendants must have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine. Should conferences be held in different provinces, relevant provincial authorities must be notified in advance.

Boats may be used for fishing activities in rivers that act as borders with neighboring countries between 6 am and 6 pm only, while local authorities are tasked with strictly monitoring and reporting all boat activities.

Travel within localities that have not experienced an outbreak may continue as usual

Travel by land, water, and air may resume between provinces, between provinces and Vientiane Capital, and between districts without a quarantine requirement. However, transport providers and passengers must have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and must strictly comply with Covid prevention measures.

Foreign citizens who travel to Laos and intend to travel to another province must submit a travel itinerary, evidence of 14-day quarantine, and authorization from the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control to relevant officials without having to undertake quarantine at the destination province.

Foreigners who reside in Laos or have been in Laos for some time will be allowed to travel under the same conditions as Lao citizens.

Passengers and drivers or pilots who will enter or exit a province with community spread of Covid-19 must receive authorization from the provincial taskforce of the origin and destination province.

Drivers of interprovincial freight transportation vehicles may deliver their cargo to their destination without unloading their cargo during the trip. Drivers will no longer be required to undertake Covid-19 tests or quarantine at their destination province but must comply with Covid-19 measures outlined by the Taskforce

International freight and cargo transportation will be required to comply with previous Covid-19 prevention measures as determined by the Taskforce and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Classes may resume at educational institutions including pre-school, general education (primary schools and secondary schools), universities, and vocational colleges in provinces with no community spread of Covid-19 without the requirement of authorization from district or provincial Covid taskforces. However,  Covid-19 prevention measures must be strictly followed.

Colleges and universities may undertake examinations via remote conferencing software or via other appropriate means.

Indoor and outdoor fitness centers and stadiums in provinces without community spread may continue operations, however, such businesses may not serve alcohol at their premises and must comply with all Covid-19 prevention measures.

The notice states that the Ministry of Health must coordinate with the Ministry of Education and Sports in preparing measures and recommendations for the reopening of schools and educational institutions at every level, including primary and secondary schools in Vientiane Capital and every province with community spread of Covid-19. Reopening would be permitted only for schools that meet the necessary conditions and are authorized by the relevant provincial Covid Taskforce. These will be authorized on a case-by-case basis during a trial period.