BANGKOK ( Associated Press) – The Southeast Asian country of Laos reopened to tourists and other visitors on Monday, more than two years after it imposed tighter restrictions to fight the coronavirus.
Thiphakon Chanthwaonsa, the head of the government’s agency to control COVID-19, on Saturday announced the date of reopening, which is the last in a three-phase plan, state news agency KPL reported. He said that Lao citizens and foreigners entering the country would still need a vaccination certificate or virus test.
Travelers 12 years of age or older without a vaccination certificate must be able to show a negative ATK test within 48 hours of departure for Laos.
As part of the easing of restrictions, entertainment venues, including karaoke parlors, will be able to reopen, but they will have to comply with COVID-19 control rules. All border crossings have been reopened.
The country hosted a record 4.79 million foreign visitors in 2019 before the pandemic began. That number fell to 886,400 in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available.
The website of the state-controlled Vientiane Times newspaper quoted Deputy Health Minister Snong Thongsna as saying that the decision to reopen the country was based on the falling number of COVID-19 cases in Laos and around the world. It said the average number of new infections reported daily has come down from about 2,000 in February and March to less than 200 now.
Laos, with an estimated 7.7 million people, is one of the poorest countries in Asia. According to the health ministry, since the pandemic began, it has 208,535 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 749 deaths.