Large gatherings banned over Laos New Year as Covid-19 measures are further tightened

VIENTIANE, April 2 (Vientiane Times/ANN): The National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in Laos has banned large gatherings during Lao New Year (Pi Mai Lao) as part of enhanced measures to contain the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.

With the annual Pi Mai Lao festival scheduled to take place on April 14-16, the taskforce has called on people to limit activities to traditional events only, such as paying homage to Buddha images, pouring perfumed water on Buddha images, and holding bacis – the ritual ceremony held to dispel bad luck and offer good wishes.

The ruling is part of the updated Covid-19 prevention and control measures stipulated by the taskforce which came into effect on March 31.

The update has beefed up Covid control measures in an attempt to prevent crowds forming and contain the virus outbreak after the number of new infections has spiralled in recent weeks.

On Friday (April 1), as many as 2,665 people – out of 5,270 tested over the past 24 hours – were confirmed to have contracted Covid, bringing the total number of cases to 179,563, including 6,436 people currently undergoing treatment.

Four more people died from the virus, driving up the total number of Covid-related deaths to 669.

In light of the surge in infections, the taskforce has asked ministerial and provincial authorities in charge of virus control to issue guidelines on new year celebrations, including the ban on large gatherings.

Everyone taking part in new year celebrations is advised to strictly comply with the basic virus control measures, such as mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing.

The new measures also extend to meetings, with the requirement that if the number of participants exceeds 100, all attendees must produce a negative result from an ATK rapid test taken within the previous 24 hours.

Attendees must also be fully vaccinated including having a booster shot and must strictly comply with the basic infection control measures. Anyone with flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to attend the meeting.

The taskforce has also told ministerial and provincial authorities to assess whether staff should work in offices or work from home, depending on the virus outbreak situation in their local area.

However, the taskforce has agreed that schools at all levels will remain open for face-to-face teaching, except those that are unable to comply with virus prevention and control measures.

Taskforces at all levels were told to ensure that all state and private employees are fully vaccinated before entering their place of work, including factories.

The National Covid Taskforce has instructed restaurant and shop managers to ensure that customers are fully vaccinated, and if they are not, business operators could be fined. Authorities were told to carry out regular inspections in this regard.

Authorities will also carry out inspections of airlines, boats, trains and buses, with operators subject to a fine if passengers are found to be not fully vaccinated. - Vientiane Times/ANN

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