Prime Minister extends stay-at-home order . . .
On Wednesday, the Laos government extended its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith had earlier asked for an extension of the lockdown to encompass Laos New Year celebrations from April 13-to-16. But the government has now approved a lockdown extension until May 3, with borders, non-essential businesses, and schools remaining closed and travel restrictions between provinces in place. Gatherings of less than 10 people are permitted, but all participants must wear masks and adhere to two-metre distancing requirements. Laos has 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases and is bracing for a sudden economic downturn.
Major drop in economic output . . .
The Economist recently revised the country’s GDP growth forecast from 6.5 to 2.8 per cent, on the back of an expected drop in tourism, private consumption, and foreign investment. The country’s tourism industry, the fastest growing sector in recent years, is projected to be the hardest hit. At the same time, the majority of the 100,000 Laotian migrant workers in Thailand have returned home, reducing remittances, a critical contributor to the country’s GDP. The government is in negotiations to reschedule its debt and external financial supports. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also impacted the construction of a Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) railway, a major economic booster connecting Laos to Chinese and Southeast Asian markets.
Relying on foreign aid . . .
A cash-strapped government is now relying heavily on international assistance to fight the pandemic. The Chinese government has sent medical experts along with 2,000 test kits to Laos in recent weeks, while the Jack Ma Foundation donated 5,000 sets of protective clothing, testing kits, and face masks. Last week, Vietnam also provided C$426,000 worth of protective clothing, testing kits, mask, and other necessary equipment. In February, the U.S. Ambassador announced that the U.S. would provide personal protective equipment to the Laos Ministry of Health and, in March, announced an additional C$2.8 million in funding for Laos to be provided through the WHO, Save the Children, and UNICEF.
- ASEAN Briefing: Laos issues tax relief measures to mitigate COVID-19 impact
- Tilleke & Gibbins: Laos imposes sweeping COVID-19 lockdown measures
- Vientiane Times: Laos extends lockdown by 14 days for fight against Covid-19