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Laos extends lockdown as Covid cases rise

Vientiane's vaccination rollout remains slow despite Cambodia's vaccine donation

Laos extends lockdown as Covid cases rise

Buddhist monks praying at a temple in Lao capital Vientiane. (Photo: AFP)

Published: November 01, 2021 07:46 AM GMT

Updated: November 01, 2021 08:00 AM GMT

The Lao government has extended its lockdown by two weeks to Nov. 14 as the average daily number of Covid-19 cases jumped by more than 27 percent in October from the previous month, hitting record highs.

Deputy Head of the Prime Minister's Office Thipphakone Chanthavongsa told a press conference in Vientiane over the weekend that lockdown measures were necessary as the virus had spread across Laos, with hundreds of locally transmitted cases recorded in recent days.

“Restrictions are necessary to protect Lao citizens and foreign residents living in Laos from Covid-19 while preventing as many deaths as possible,” said Thipphakone.

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The National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control on Oct. 31 reported 679 new locally transmitted cases and six imported cases after a record 858 were reported on Oct. 30.

Less than 45 percent of the nation’s 7.3 million people have received their first jab while just 38 percent are fully vaccinated against the disease.

Neighboring Cambodia has already reached herd immunity with a swift Chinese-backed rollout of its inoculation program. Last month Phnom Penh donated 200,000 Covid-19 doses to Laos where the pandemic is witnessing a second wave that has left the authorities struggling to cope.

Reports from the isolated one-party state say the government is increasingly concerned about cluster outbreaks of the virus

A further 2.4 million doses have been promised by the Chinese and Australian governments.

Laos has said it hopes to vaccinate half its population by the end of the year and is urging its citizens to prepare for a "new normal" amid the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

The government statement said a ban on issuing tourist and visitor visas would remain.

However, diplomats, employees of international organizations and investors with an urgent requirement to enter the country would be granted entry but must comply with all Covid-19 prevention measures.

Reports from the isolated one-party state say the government is increasingly concerned about cluster outbreaks of the virus, the rising death toll and the fact that some people have died even after having had two vaccine doses.

As a result, Laos labor authorities have asked Thai officials to inoculate Lao nationals with jobs in Thailand but without work permits. About 8,000 Lao citizens working in Thailand have so far been vaccinated. All have a passport or a work permit.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Laos has reached 40,271, with 65 deaths, since Vientiane reported its first two cases on March 24 last year.

Of the latest community cases, 284 were reported in Vientiane, 122 in Vientiane province, 59 in Oudomxay, 55 in Luang Namtha, 39 in Bokeo, 38 in Luang Prabang, 21 in Khammuan, 16 in Saravan, 12 in Savannakhet and Sekong and seven in Champasak.

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