Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Laos extends international passenger travel ban, other restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through May 17. Some controls relaxed.

This alert affects Laos

This alert began 01 May 2020 17:27 GMT and is scheduled to expire 18 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: International travel ban, quarantine measures, movement restrictions

Authorities have extended international travel restrictions and other movement controls through May 17 to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). While many social distancing restrictions have been relaxed, others remain in place. The government is allowing foreigners already in the country to depart, while citizens can travel abroad only for specific reasons, such as essential government duties or for medical purposes. Foreign nationals employed in Laos may be allowed to return to the country. Cross-border movement of goods remains authorized.

Under the nationwide domestic restrictions scheduled to remain in effect through May 17, individuals can travel between provinces only with official approval. Gatherings remain limited to 10 people, and the nationwide closure of entertainment venues continues. However, previous orders requiring residents to stay at home, except for emergencies, have been relaxed. Some businesses, including restaurants and food markets, have been allowed to reopen, provided they enforce social distancing measures. Schools remain suspended and are using home-based learning methods through May 17. Officials have warned the government could extend or expand restrictions in the coming weeks, particularly if COVID-19 activity increases in-country.

Travel Restrictions
Issuance of tourist visas, visas-on-arrival, and visa exemptions remain suspended through at least May 17. Only people visiting Laos for non-tourism purposes can obtain visas by submitting relevant documents, including a health declaration form, to Lao diplomatic missions; these travelers will likely need to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival in Laos. Overseas Lao workers who are returning to the country will have to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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