VIENTIANE, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The Lao government has suspended the issuance of visas for foreign tourists for 30 days and suspended all levels of education to prevent COVID-19, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has announced.
All types of visas on arrival and electronic visas (E-visas) are suspended, the premier said on Wednesday as he concluded the first day of the monthly cabinet meeting for March, held in Lao capital Vientiane, when measures to prevent and control the virus dominated the discussion.
Those already holding an entry visa need to get a health certificate from the concerned authorities and declare their movement history. The cabinet temporary revokes visa exemptions previously granted to some countries.
"It means (citizens of countries previously granted visa exemptions) need to approach the Lao embassy or consulate applying for entry visa," he said, adding that this measure applies until further notice.
The Lao government has intensified preventive measures, despite there being no confirmed case of the virus infection in Laos as of Wednesday, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Thursday.
The prime minister said Lao people travelling from outbreak countries are required to impose self-isolation for 14 days. All entertainment venues including karaoke and massage venues should be closed.
Other businesses can continue operations and services with the operators employing necessary protective measures, including taking the temperature of customers and providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
All state and private educational facilities from preschools through to universities will be closed until further notice -- an expansion from the previous announcement by the Ministry of Education and Sports that ordered the closure of just preschools, kindergarten and primary schools.
Thongloun warned Lao people to avoid travelling to foreign countries, especially by aeroplane or any crowded vehicle.
He told the meeting to advise overseas Lao people (who plan to come back to Laos) to suspend their travel plans until the outbreak is under control.
Authorities suggested the designate of isolation facilities for those travelling from outbreak countries including Lao students and workers expected to come back during the upcoming Lao New Year scheduled for the middle of April.
In Vientiane, four hospitals, namely Mittaphab Hospital, Mahosot Hospital, Setthethirath Hospital and 103 Hospital have been designated for the isolation.
In the provinces, suspected patients will be isolated at provincial hospitals.
The head of the government told members of the public to avoid any crowded events including celebrations for the upcoming Lao New Year as well as traditional festivals, product fairs, wedding parties, and sporting events.
The prime minister called for more campaigns to raise public awareness about the virus and preventative measures.
The meeting called for the training of officials involved in preparing the prevention and control effort while coordinating with foreign countries and international organizations to seek assistance and expertise support when needed.
Authorities in charge were asked to define the necessary equipment and supplies with a purchase plan, especially face masks, hand sanitizer and protective clothing for medical doctors.
He warned traders and distributors not to sell preventive equipment for unreasonable gain, especially face masks and hand sanitizer, saying the government will take firm action.
The cabinet will consider and discuss economic stimulus measures proposed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment on Thursday.