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Ministries to outline plans to reopen Laos

Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh has entrusted the ministries concerned to draw up plans to reopen the country to tourists. The Prime Minister’s Office on Friday issued a notice outlining the premier’s guidance on the matter.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism was assigned to work with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control and other relevant bodies to draw up a standardised plan for the reopening process.

Guidance on the plan was given after the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism proposed to trial the entry of vaccinated tourists from the Republic of Korea. Now the prime minister has advised the ministries and sectors concerned to devise a uniform and comprehensive plan to reopen Laos’ borders to other visitors, not only vaccinated Korean tourists.

State authorities and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry were told to work with business operators to make sure they are prepared to welcome visitors when the country reopens. Once the plan is finalised, the ministries involved will submit it to the prime minister to seek guidance. Earlier this month, the government told the ongoing 2nd ordinary session of the National Assembly’s 9th legislature that it plans to open up the country.

PM Phankham told Assembly members that Laos must reopen to revitalise businesses and the economy, especially tourism which has been paralysed by the Covid-19 outbreak for almost two years. He told lawmakers that many neighbouring countries have reopened their borders or plan to do so. Thailand began accepting vaccinated tourists at the beginning of this month, welcoming visitors from over 60 countries, who are no longer required to undergo quarantine or spend time in limited areas. Meanwhile, Vietnam is piloting reopening in five provinces. Cambodia has declared itself fully reopen from November 1 and several other ASEAN members also plan to reopen.

“Reopening is a regional and global trend. We must also reopen,” the prime minister said. “We will reopen step by step and reopen for each sector in certain localities that are fully prepared rather than fully reopen.” To reopen tourist attractions in the World Heritage Town of Luang Prabang, the town must fully prepare, including the preparation of accommodation and visitor attractions, as well as figuring out quarantine procedures, the prime minister said.

However, the planned reopening comes as the number of new Covid cases escalates. In recent days, Laos has recorded a high number of new cases each day, mostly exceeding 1,000. PM Phankham underscored the need to reopen the country alongside strict compliance with Covid-19 prevention and control measures. He added that the government is striving to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population by the end of this year, a figure that exceeds the official target of 50 percent, saying that vaccination is the best way to protect people against the virus.

Source: Vientiane Times