BANGKOK (AP) — The landlocked Southeast Asian nation of Laos reopened to tourists and other visitors on Monday, more than two years after it imposed tight restrictions to fight the coronavirus.
Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, head of the government’s agency for controlling COVID-19, announced on Saturday the reopening date, the last in a three-phase plan, state news agency KPL reported. She said vaccination certificates or virus tests will still be required for Lao citizens and foreigners entering the country.
Travelers 12 years of age or older without vaccination certificates must be able to show negative ATK tests taken 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 must comply with COVID-19 control regulations. All border crossings were reopened.
The country hosted a record 4.79 million foreign visitors in 2019 before the pandemic began. The 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 the decision to reopen the country was based on the falling number of COVID-19 cases in Laos and worldwide. It said the average number of new infections reported daily has declined from almost 2,000 in February and March to less than 200 now.
Laos, with an estimated 7.7 million people, is one of Asia’s poorest nations. It has had 208,535 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 749 deaths, since the pandemic began, according to the health ministry.