Laos has been ranked last in a global assessment of Covid recovery produced by Japanese publisher Nikkei.
The Nikkei COVID-19 Recovery Index ranks vaccination rollouts and Covid-19 management efficiency in more than 120 countries.
According to Nikkei, the higher a country or region’s score, the closer it is to recovery from the effects of the pandemic with better vaccination rates and less stringent Covid measures.
The United Arab Emirates took first place in the index, with neighbor Cambodia taking second place. Third place went to Rwanda.
Of the ASEAN nations, Cambodia shot ahead taking second place thanks to its excellent vaccination rates and relaxed covid measures.
The Philippines ranked 79, Indonesia 84, Vietnam 92, Singapore 56, and Thailand 113.
Laos stood alone in last place with a ranking of 121.
Slow Vaccination Rollout, Strict Measures Hampering Laos
In Laos, while an initial vaccination campaign was off to a good start, the rate has since slowed. Only 77% of the total population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, with 62.7% having received all recommended doses.
The country hopes to reach 80% of the entire population by the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, the emergence of the Omicron variant has seen a surge of cases in Laos, with authorities responding by instituting stricter measures.
The Ministry of Education and Sports temporarily closed preschools and primary schools in March before the measure was overturned by the Covid Taskforce.
Provincial authorities also took kneejerk reactions to Omicron, rushing to close entertainment venues, instituting mask mandates, and bringing back curfews in some areas.
Meanwhile, economic recovery has been difficult for Laos, with rising inflation, a depreciating currency, and a high cost of living.
The World Bank has said that multiple shocks from Covid-19 and the conflict in Ukraine will set the region back, downgrading Laos’ expected economic growth from 4.5% to just 3.8% in 2022.
Amid this situation, Laos has failed to fully reopen its borders to tourism, with confusing entry regulations, continued quarantines, and strict controls on individual travel seeing travelers taking their much-needed foreign currency elsewhere.
Although the country was expected to announce its full reopening earlier this month, observers say the decision may have been delayed until after the Lao New Year holiday.