Residents in Laos Confused by Latest Covid-19 Measures

Confusion over Covid-19 restriction measures

Frequently changing policies and inconsistent announcements have left the public unclear about Covid-19 measures in Laos.

Residents of Laos have expressed confusion regarding the latest Covid-19 measures issued by authorities, with policies surrounding the reopening of schools and domestic travel causing uncertainty.

According to the latest national Covid-19 restriction measures issued on Sunday by the Prime Minister’s Office, face-to-face (in-person) classes would resume at schools across the country, while domestic travel without quarantine was also announced.

The news saw parents overjoyed and students ready for classes.

At the same time, the Southern Bus station in Vientiane Capital reopened bus services, while Lao Airlines announced certain flights would resume.

But a new notice issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports yesterday states that schools are to remain closed in areas with community spread of Covid-19, which could include most of Vientiane Capital and major cities across the country.

At the same time, some provinces have issued notices restricting travel despite the national measures stating that domestic travel had reopened.

Houaphanh Province issued a notice on 16 November requiring 14-days state quarantine for vaccinated people from green zones entering the province, and 21 days quarantine for people entering from red zones.

Arrivals in Luang Namtha now require a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours or face confinement until a test is performed, with a similar policy put in place by Xaysomboun Province.

In light of inconsistent policies, residents have taken to social media to express their confusion and concern.

One Vientiane resident told Laotian Times yesterday that he was confused by the notice on schools reopening because while one authority had ordered schools to open, another had said schools would remain closed.

“I was overjoyed when I heard the first announcement [by the Prime Minister’s Office] that schools would reopen. I told my kids they would finally be returning to school. But the next day I was extremely disappointed to hear that schools wouldn’t be opening after all,” he said.

Another woman residing in Vientiane Capital said that because the Coronavirus has spread to most of the city, the red zone system should be abandoned.

“Even when schools are located in green zones, many students may come from red zones, so they couldn’t attend anyway. My kids have been at home for nearly a year and they’ve missed out on their education,” she said.

But the Ministry of Health has begun vaccinations for children, announcing on Sunday that children aged 12 to 17 would be vaccinated against Covid-19, with vaccinations now underway.

The vaccination of children has been seen as a step toward ensuring that schools do not become centers for the spread of the virus as the country moves toward reopening.