Laos is set to begin a fast-track immigration service this week that will allow Chinese nationals to cross the border more easily with shorter quarantine time amid the travel restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Several brand-new measures are expected to be employed to facilitate travel for Chinese nationals while ensuring that the coronavirus is kept in check, National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control vice-chairman Dr Phouthone Meuangpak said last week.
Incomers are expected to spend a shorter time in quarantine and will be allowed to quarantine at home instead of undergoing the normal 14-day compulsory quarantine at government-designated centres or hotels.
The required quarantine period is still under discussion and the taskforce will meet for further talks in the coming days.
Authorities are also considering the use of electronic devices that would monitor incomers around the clock about their whereabouts, said Dr Phouthone, who is Deputy Minister of Health.
He told a press conference: “One option is that they [new arrivals] quarantine at home and take their temperature every morning and evening.”
Prior to entering Laos, incomers are required to be tested for Covid-19 and those with negative results (provided within 72 hours before their departure) are eligible to enter the country. Upon their arrival, travellers are required to have another test.
“If the virus is not detected, people can quarantine at home,” the deputy minister said, adding that a shorter quarantine period would mean that new arrivals could begin work sooner.
In the future, this policy will also apply to citizens of countries with no recent outbreak of Covid-19, he added.
The taskforce is currently working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to identify countries that have no community or cluster outbreaks.
“If we can identify the countries that have no community outbreak, then we can also initiate the fast-track immigration system for their nationals,” Dr Phouthone said, adding that this would only be set in motion following a bilateral agreement between both countries involved.
Authorities are studying the possibility of a shorter quarantine period in line with WHO’s guidance.
Some countries have reduced the quarantine time from 14 to 10 days, and some have cut it to seven days.
The taskforce will meet in coming days to review and revise the current virus prevention measures before making any changes next month. The government updates the measures every month based on the situation surrounding the pandemic.
Dr Phouthone said: “Anyway, we will not take any risks.”
He addressed the press conference to inform reporters about the latest confirmed case of Covid-19 in Laos, after a man returning from studies in Russia tested positive for the virus on October 20.
Asked if Laos would tighten up the measures the government relaxed last month given this latest case, Dr Phouthone said this would be decided during upcoming talks.
He added that the government’s intention was to reopen the country to ease the impact on the economy, while ensuring the virus was kept at bay.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK