VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) has asked the Covid-19 taskforce to consider reopening factories in the capital to minimise the impacts on business operations and the economy.
In a three-page proposal signed by LNCCI President Oudet Souvannavong, the Chamber congratulated the government on its efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
However, when the Mayor of Vientiane ordered a lockdown on September 19, many factories in the capital were forced to close.
“Until now, none of these factories have been given permission to reopen,” the LNCCI said.
The Chamber described the challenges faced by garment factories and other production plants due to the closure, pointing out that some investors may consider relocating production bases to Cambodia or Bangladesh if the virus outbreak continues for much longer.
“Therefore, easing policy on factories is essential. Shutting down factories might be good to contain the spread of Covid-19 but it causes considerable damage to the business sector and the nation’s economy,” the LNCCI said.
The LNCCI called for authorities to speed up the vaccination programme by arranging for mobile units to vaccinate all factory workers by the end of this year, so that all factories are permitted to reopen.
The Chamber agreed with the notice issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sept 30, which allowed factories in areas with no community outbreaks to reopen. However, workers must be fully inoculated and live outside of red zones.
According to the Covid-19 taskforce, factories may reopen but must have their own dormitories to house employees.
The LNCCI responded that most factories cannot fulfil this requirement because only 10 per cent of factories in Laos have their own dormitories. Since most factories and workshops in Laos are operated by SMEs, they are unable to provide dormitories for their employees and must hire workers from different areas.
In addition, the taskforce has been urged to speed up the assessment process for factories that have their own dormitories because, at present, none have been given permission to reopen.
The Chamber proposed that factory employees who test negative for Covid should be allowed to return to work without being required to quarantine for 14 days.
The LNCCI said factory owners were happy to pay for rapid tests for their employees and to help the taskforce trace those who test positive.
To reduce the cost burden on the government, the Chamber asked the government to set up field quarantine centres with participation from factory owners.
This would reduce overcrowding at existing quarantine centres. The Chamber is concerned that if a Covid case is reported at an existing quarantine centre, the reopening of factories will be delayed.
The closure of factories triggered by the Covid outbreak has caused businesses to lose market opportunities and the money needed to sustain their operations.
With the vaccination programme making good progress, the lifting of restrictions is essential to help the economy recover, according to the LNCCI.