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Latest virus outbreak hits Lao workers in the pocket

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Labourers in Khammouane province’s Thakhek district in central Laos. SYS PHONGSAVATH VIA FACEBOOK

Latest virus outbreak hits Lao workers in the pocket

Many labourers in Laos have been struggling to survive since an outbreak of Covid-19 erupted in the middle of April, taking the country by surprise after months of relative safety from the virus.

Along with many other people, manual labourers have been hard hit by the virus outbreak and have suffered financially after losing their jobs because of the lockdown. Many had been working on construction sites but work came to an end when the government ordered a lockdown.

Thousands of workers were laid off with no indication that they would be rehired in the near future. This has left them with no income to finance their daily expenses and their life has become very hard and full of uncertainties.

Because of the lockdown they have had to remain at home and been unable to go in search of other work.

Bounmy Inthasone, a construction worker in Xaythany district, Vientiane, said: “I worked on a construction site but had to stop work when the Covid outbreak began in April. This has made life very difficult for me because I now have no income.

“I live with my family. During the lockdown I can’t go to work and have to stay at home all the time,” he said. “To stay safe, I and other members of my family have been careful to protect ourselves against the virus and prevent its spread by following all the rules laid down by the national Covid-19 taskforce.

“I don’t like not being able to work and having to stay at home for a long time because it means I’m not earning any money and life is very boring. The longer the lockdown lasts the less and less money I have because I’m not earning but still have regular outlays.

“I hope the virus outbreak is soon over and that life returns to normal before long so that I can go out to work and earn a decent income again,” Bounmy said. “My friends and all other workers have the same problems and want to return to work as soon as possible.”

Keo, a labourer from Hadxaifong district in Vientiane, said: “I stopped working when the virus outbreak hit Vientiane because most construction projects stopped and companies were no longer hiring.

“Without work, my life has become very difficult because I don’t have an income to support my family. And other people in my family have also lost their jobs. Naturally we’re very concerned about the situation and are trying to find a way out.

“I really worry that things will get worse if the outbreak continues, especially in Vientiane,” he said. “If possible, when the virus outbreak is over, I’d like the government or some other responsible entity to help unemployed workers find new jobs. But as we know, it’s not easy to find jobs these days.”

Phonexay, a construction worker from Xayaboury province, said: “Before the pandemic I worked on a construction site in Vientiane but I stopped working and returned home when the virus struck Laos because the project I was working on came to an end.

“Losing my job has caused endless problems for me and my family because I’m not earning any money to pay our bills. There are several children in my family and I have to pay for what they need,” he said. “I can’t find any work in Xayaboury because all construction projects have ground to a halt and I can’t get to Vientiane because of the lockdown.

“Of course, I’d like the spread of the virus to stop soon so that I can come back to Vientiane and continue my work or find a new job.”

VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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