Report in September 2021

Covid-19 in Lao PDR

Amphone Keosengthong
Thippakhone Milburn

Amphone Keosengthong and Thipphakone Milburn
National University of Laos, Vientiane, Lao PDR.

  1. On 10th September 2021, currently, in Lao PDR, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 are 16,936; newly confirmed cases are 194; active cases are 4093. The total death cases are 16 with no new deaths.
  2. We believe the biggest problem facing Lao PDR during the pandemic is the effect on transport; public transport has been closed and inter-provincial private transport requires government permission. Lao PDR has enforced a strict lockdown which has proven very effective in controlling the spread of disease. For example, there are green (safe) and red (unsafe) zones of Vientiane (and other cities) which are publicized daily. Further, any individuals entering Lao PDR must undertake 14 days of quarantine; tourist visas are also not being granted.
  3. As far as we are aware of, there is no financial help available.
  4. The lockdown in Lao PDR has been ongoing since March 2020. There are no commercial flights in or out of the country; however, domestic flights have recently restarted for fully vaccinated travelers. If any citizens break the lockdown rules they may be detained by police or fined. Supermarkets, local markets, and malls have been open throughout the lockdown subject to temperature checks and wearing masks. Universities and schools are allowed to open if they are in a green (safe zone); some institutions such as the NUoL (National University of Laos) and international schools have been conducting teaching online. Banks are currently open for fully vaccinated citizens. Lao people miss socializing and meeting their families; yet, almost all citizens follow the rules and there has been no major protests to restrictions. Finally, there has been no “panic buying” of goods; perhaps this is because Lao citizens are arguably more self-sufficient than other countries; most families have their own animals, vegetables, rice, and make use of their land; local fresh markets remain open and well-stocked (apart from temporary closures in red zones).
  5. Individuals cannot enter shopping centers if they do not wear a mask. Police may be called if individuals are breaking social distancing rules; this is usually handled on a community basis. Some individuals who have broken quarantine rules or entered the country illegally have been put in prison. Interestingly, many Lao people already typically wore masks because of dusty road conditions and the main form of transport being motorbikes or song-teow.
  6. PCR and antigen testing are implemented in Lao PDR. At-risk individuals, including those in red zones, do not have to pay for testing. If you are not at-risk (for instance, if you need a PCR test to travel abroad on a charter flight), then you are required to pay for the cost of the test, which cost 650,000 Lao Kip (about US$68) for each test. The new Delta variant of the virus is present in Lao PDR.
  7. Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sputnik V, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are being administered to the population. Vaccinations are free-of-charge to citizens, residents, and non-residents currently in Lao PDR. 1,859,931 individuals are already fully vaccinated; 2,633,604 individuals have received the first dose (as of 10th Sept 2021). The population of Lao PDR is approximately 7 million.
  8. No traditional medicine has been approved by the government for use against the virus; some Lao citizens believe that Kaempferia can be used to prevent Covid-19.
  9. Countries such as Japan, Russia, China, the USA, the UK, Australia and others have generously donated large amounts of vaccines and medical equipment to our country. It could be argued that students in rural areas have been largely disadvantaged by the outbreak; schools in rural areas, if deemed a red zone, are closed for long periods of time without any online provision. At the National University of Laos, lectures are provided online; however, students are required to wait until lockdown restrictions are eased for their practical classes.
  10. One good aspect of Covid-19 is that we can spend more time with my family. There are, of course, many negative aspects of the pandemic for Lao PDR including long-term, adverse economic effects; the tourism sector, for example, has been massively affected.
Fig. 1. Following Covid-19 precautions during a training workshop at the National University of Laos
Fig. 2. Faculty provide free food and supplies to students who live in campus dormitories during the lockdown