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Lao folk rush home from Thailand to avoid border closures

Thousands of Lao people, mostly workers, have hastily returned home across Thai-Lao borders before their temporary closing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane, it informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos, by order of the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand, that the respective border provinces were temporarily closing their borders starting on March 23.

Nonetheless, vehicles transporting goods with customs permits are still permitted to cross at the international border checkpoints.
Sunday and Monday particularly saw large numbers of Lao people returning from Thailand with the highest estimates in the thousands.
Most queuing to cross the border are workers in Thailand who are rushing back home because their employers have temporarily stopped work.
Minister of Labour and Social Welfares, Mr Khampheng Saysomepheng visited the First Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge to inspect the work of officials facilitating the safe return of local labourers.
He also visited the temporary reception area for workers close to the Laos-Thai border, before they are sent to their hometowns after ID and health checks.
I their hometowns, village officials will supervise their 14-days of quarantine to ensure they are not infected with COVID-19.
The returnees are travelling via the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (Vientiane, Laos - Nong Khai province, Thailand), second Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (Savannakhet province, Laos-Mukdahan province, Thailand), third Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (Khammuan province, Laos-Nakhon Phanom province), Vangtao-Chong Mek international border checkpoint in Champassak province and Nam Heuang-Nakaxeng International border between Xayaboury province of Laos and Loei province of Thailand.   
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 5,000 people per day passed through the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge international checkpoint.
The coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, Hubei province in China, and is now spreading around the world. So far, no official virus cases have been reported in Laos.
News agencies from Thailand reported on Sunday there were nearly 600 coronavirus infections with boxing stadiums and social activities among young people in Bangkok cited as sources of contagion.
The WHO reported on Sunday there were 267,013 confirmed cases, with 11,201 deaths, in 184 countries and regions.

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
(Latest Update March 24, 2020)

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