Tue, 24 Nov 2020

VIENTIANE, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Laos is expected to launch a fast-track immigration service next week that will allow Chinese travelers to enter the country more easily with a shorter quarantine period.

New measures will be taken to facilitate travel for Chinese nationals while continuing to ensure protection against COVID-19, local daily Vientiane Times quoted Lao Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meaungpak as saying on Monday.

Inbound travelers 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 isolation at the government-designated centers.

The length of the quarantine period remains 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 the travelers around-the-clock about their whereabouts, said Phouthone.

Prior to entering Laos, inbound travelers 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, the travelers 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 Organization (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," Phouthone said, adding that this would only be set in motion following a bilateral agreement between both countries involved.

Some countries have reduced the quarantine time from 14 to 10 days, and some have cut it to seven days. The taskforce will meet later to review and revise the current virus prevention measures before making any changes in November.

As of Monday, 63,749 suspected cases of COVID-19 have been tested in Laos with 24 positive cases, and 22 patients have been discharged from hospitals.

Laos detected its first two COVID-19 cases on March 24.

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