Laos: Borders remain closed to foreigners but resume flights on Vientiane-Hanoi route

VIENTIANE, July 19: The government of Laos has chosen to keep its borders closed to foreign visitors, with testing and medical certification required before travelers can exit the country to ensure it remains free of Covid-19, reports the Laotian Times.

Following the case of a Myanmar national who tested positive for Covid-19 after exiting Laos, the National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control has declared that all travelers, whether residents or Lao citizens, must carry a medical certificate before visiting another country.

According to Dr. Phonepadith Xangsayarath, Director-General of the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology, Ministry of Health, anyone with flu-like symptoms, cough, sore throat, respiratory problems or a recent history of contact with a high-risk group will not be issued with a medical certificate for travel.

Meanwhile, the national taskforce has declared that only foreign technical experts, diplomats, and students will be allowed to travel outside the country. They must obtain an official letter from their embassy and need to declare the specific objective and details of their travel to the taskforce.

Patients who seek medical care abroad will be permitted to leave Laos but will have to meet the destination country’s entry requirements.

Several neighboring countries have introduced strict immigration policies, with Thailand slowly beginning the process of reopening its borders, while Vietnam is set to begin issuing e-visas to certain countries. Cambodia will see all visitors make a deposit upon arrival before being sent for testing overnight prior to further travel.

Vientiane Times reported that state-run Laos Airlines plans to soon resume its international service from Vientiane to Hanoi in Vietnam, with two flights a week on Mondays and Fridays.

Flights on this route were suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith informed us recently to prepare both technical facilities and staff to resume flights on the Vientiane-Hanoi route,” Director of the Commercial Department of Laos Airlines, Noudeng Chanthaphasouk said.

“We are ready to resume operations but we cannot indicate the exact date now, because we need to wait for related sectors,” he said.

Prime Minister Thongloun also confirmed during a meeting at the Vientiane Administration Office on Thursday that Laos will soon re-open its first international checkpoint on the border with Vietnam, according to Laos Youth Radio.

Noudeng said when flights resume on the Vientiane-Hanoi route, passengers from both countries will be able to enter the destination country without having to stay at a quarantine centre.

“But they will still need to fill a form and provide information on their travel history, the place of stay in the destination country, the purpose of travel and other details,” he added.

Currently, the only scheduled international flight operated by Lao Airlines is from Vientiane to Kunming city of Yunnan province in China.

Its frequency will increase from one flight to two flights a week from this week, following an increase in passengers and the lack of Covid-19 cases in the city for two months.