Laos May Cancel Lao New Year Festivities Amid Omicron Outbreak

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As daily Covid infections rise across Laos, particularly in Vientiane Capital, the government may decide to cancel Lao New Year festivities.

Infection rates in Laos have been steadily increasing amid the detection of the fast-spreading Omicron variant, from under 200 cases per day earlier this month to upwards of 800, prompting the Covid Taskforce to declare a new wave.

Should the infection rate continue to rise, the Lao government may decide to cancel or scale-back Lao New Year (Pi Mai) celebrations.

Health officials have stated that while the Delta variant had been the dominant strain until recently, the Omicron strain and potentially an Omicron subvariant are now spreading through the community.

The Omicron variant is known to spread faster than other strains of Covid-19.

Dr. Lattanaxay Phetsouvanh, Director-General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, said in a statement recently that Laos should take into account the experiences of neighboring countries, where case numbers increased rapidly within one to two months after the Omicron variant was identified in the community.

He said that although deaths from the Omicron variant are typically fewer than those caused by Delta and other Covid variants, the Omicron strain remains dangerous for persons over 60 years of age or those with underlying conditions.

While the country’s biggest festival was canceled in 2020, scaled-back Lao New Year celebrations were held in 2021, allowing residents to participate in the celebration with their families, at their workplaces, and at temples in accordance with Lao traditions.

Outdoor entertainment venues, market fairs, and music and dance performances at river banks, temples, or other public places were prohibited, while the typical water play was absent from public roads.