Laos Confirms First Two Coronavirus Cases Amid Rollout of Strict Measures to Stem Spread

Laos has confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Health announced Tuesday, becoming the final Southeast Asian nation to officially record an infection within its borders.

“We discovered two cases within [the capital] Vientiane city … marking the first instance of infections in our country,” Dr. Phouthone Muang Pak, the Deputy Minister of Health told a press conference.

“One is a female Lao national, aged 36, who works as a tour guide for foreign tourists from European countries, while the other is a 28-year-old male Lao national working in hotel management at the Lao Crown Plaza Hotel in Vientiane. He traveled occasionally through high-risk cities to attend seminars, such as Bangkok.”

The two individuals are currently undergoing treatment at the 150-bed Lao-Soviet Friendship Hospital in the capital, Phouthone said.

Laos, one of the region’s poorest countries, had been undertaking increasingly strict measures in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s announcement in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the disease it causes (COVID-19).

Last week, authorities in Laos shuttered all small checkpoints for Lao and Thai nationals across their countries’ shared border, suspended issuance of e-visas and tourist visas, recommended that Laotians refrain from any nonessential travel abroad, banned large gatherings, and closed all entertainment venues.

The new measures came on the same day authorities closed all schools throughout the nation until April 21, citing coronavirus concerns.

Laos on Monday began rolling out quarantine requirements for tens of thousands of migrant workers returning home from neighboring Thailand amid growing restrictions there and ahead of April 14-16 New Year festivities. As of Tuesday, Thailand had reported 827 cases of infections and four deaths from COVID-19.

In addition to the two confirmed cases in Laos, 129 people have tested negative for COVID-19.

Reported by Phouvong Boutsady for RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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