July 2022 Updates
The Ministry of Health has stopped tracking the number of cases nationwide, which shows that cases are minimal, and the COVID-19 situation is finally under control (single digit cases). Refer to the website here.
However, Laos is faced with alarming inflation due to rising oil prices and a rapidly depreciating currency, which have led to runaway increases in the price of energy and consumer goods.
In June, Laos’ year-on-year inflation rose to a 22-year high of 23.6%, according to official reports. The price of fuel, gas and gold increased by 107.1%, 69.4% and 68.7% respectively compared to June 2021’s prices.
The value of the local Laotian currency, the kip, has fallen from 9,300 against the U.S. dollar in September 2021 to 15,000 today.
Laos is on the brink of sovereign bankruptcy with only $1.2 billion in foreign reserves, unable to meet its debt obligation of $1.3 billion per year until 2025.
UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Sports of Japan announced a partnership worth USD621,000 for one year to help marginalised children to access accelerated learning opportunities and materials towards recovery from impacts of COVID-19.
June 2022 Updates
The World Bank has been conducting a series of COVID-19 Rapid Monitoring Phone Surveys to assess the impact of covid on Laos. A selection of key findings can be found below. Click here for more findings.
Most businesses have resumed operations. By May, almost 90% of family businesses had resumed pre-pandemic operations or started a new venture.
Revenues are yet to fully return to pre-pandemic levels. For 54% of family businesses, revenues in April/May 2022 were lower than they were pre-pandemic.
The share of households reporting income losses due to the pandemic is still considerably high, although the ratio of households reporting COVID-19 induced income losses has dropped by 20 percentage points.
Wage earnings are recovering. 73% of wage-earning households reported earnings equal to or higher than at the same time last year, when a second lockdown was imposed. Poorer households are benefitting from a recovery in wage earnings and remittances.
86% of respondents reported their households being affected by inflation since the beginning of this year, with 52% citing a significant impact. 65% of households have reduced education and health spending to cope with inflation.
The impact of COVID-19 on learning is significant in Laos. Over the past 12 months, 42% of children stopped attending classes either temporarily or permanently, with the proportions higher among rural households. (Source: World Bank)
May 2022 Updates
Covid-19 cases continue to decline and rates are now at 1% of peak numbers reported in March 2022. An average of 23 cases per day are reported per day (as of 28 May, 2022). Click here to track the numbers.
Lao borders have re-opened to international travellers and the fourth dose of the covid vaccine is being rolled-out to eligible persons.
Schools are open.
April 2022 Updates
People may travel between provinces without obtaining official approval and undergoing quarantine, though passengers must be fully vaccinated. International borders are not yet fully open.
Schools have partially reopened with protocols, like mandating teachers and students to wear facemasks.
Factories manufacturing products like consumer and pharmaceutical goods, shopping malls, retail establishments, supermarkets, and sporting facilities can operate with restrictions, like opening hour limits.
March 2022 Updates
As of early March, Laos continues to enforce COVID-19 restrictions nationwide.
People may travel between provinces without obtaining official approval and undergoing quarantine, though passengers must be fully vaccinated. Schools have partially reopened with protocols, like mandating teachers and students to wear face masks. Factories manufacturing products like consumer and pharmaceutical goods, shopping malls, retail establishments, supermarkets, and sporting facilities can operate with restrictions, like opening hour limits.
The schools in Laos only fully closed for a certain period of time. The Lao PDR Government has kept the majority of schools open since the start of the new school year in September 2021 with clear guidelines on prevention measures to allow children to return safely to the classroom. Covid prevention supplies such as soaps, hand sanitizers, face masks and digital thermometers have also been provided to schools with the support of development partners.
Laos has a very small manufacturing sector that is not part of global supply chains at a large scale. Factories seem to be open with some restrictions in place but there are no reports of mayor closures.
People must be fully vaccinated in order to travel between provinces. The international border is still not fully open, which makes it challenging for Laotians who have migrated abroad for work to return.
January 2022 Updates
Laos has seen four-digit increases in COVID cases in January 2022, with the tally of infections in Laos reaching 123,293, including 476 deaths.
As of Jan. 1 2022, Laos has reopened its borders to allow the entry of tourists.
Impact on workers and children:
Following a closure of schools in 2021, schools in Laos are allowed to resume face-to-face learning as of January 2022. According to reports, schools will be allowed to reopen on a pilot basis after they set specific timetables and virus control plans and provide necessary materials for the prevention of infections.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children’s access to quality education in Laos. According to a situational analysis published by UNESCO, drop-out rates in Laos remain high, especially among poorer families. This is linked to weak access to technology and digital platforms. Read the full report here.
The World Bank predicts very low or even negative economic growth in Laos, which is expected to affect family income. This increases the risk of more children dropping out and may translate into higher rates of child labour.
October 2021 Updates
Impact on children:
Low internet access and other issues, including budget constraints, have made the transition to online education difficult for students and teachers at public schools in Laos, the Laotian Times reports. This has led to many children being unable to access education and is behind a recent push to vaccinate children and reopen schools.
Laos extended lockdown in early September by two weeks due to rising cases and has extended it again until October 30.
As of October 21, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Laos reached 33,994 with 49 deaths.
August 2021 Updates
Laos is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 due to the influx of workers returning from Thailand, many of whom have brought the virus into Laos. As of August 16, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Laos stood at 10,141 with nine deaths.
Impact on workers and business:
According to the World Bank, 30 percent of family businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic. Almost half of all firms have reported cashflow shortages, and more than a quarter of businesses expect to fall into debt over the next six months.
Impact on children and families:
The closure of schools in the Lao capital Vientiane has been extended amid fears of community spread of COVID-19. All public and private educational facilities from preschools through to universities will be closed across Lao capital Vientiane following several new cases reported in the community.
Some households have lost their main source of livelihoods while others have seen one of their main coping strategies — remittances from migrant workers — disappear. Read the World Bank's full brief of the COVID-19 impact on the Lao PDR here.
Graduates from high schools and universities are struggling to find employment, compounded by the closure of businesses in the tourism and service sectors. Read this article for more details.
July 2021 Updates
Laos reported a new record high of 256 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday (July 22), its highest daily caseload ever recorded since the first case was reported in the country.
According to the UNDP in Laos, COVID-19 has disproportionally affected vulnerable groups: In June 2020, 50% of surveyed workers had lost their jobs and 99% of those individuals had neither health insurance nor social security. This negative impact, according to the UNDP, is continuing in 2021. Read the full article here.
June 2021 Updates
Laos is currently fighting against a new COVID-19 outbreak in the country. By June 3, 2021 Laos has recorded 1,934 cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths rose to three, while the number of recovered patients rose to 1,654.
The Laos government closed the border and began a new lockdown on April 23, 2021. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the lockdown will extend to June 4, 2021. Citizens are required to stay at home, with the exception of purchasing groceries or seeking medical treatment. Gatherings of over 10 people are not allowed.
Bokeo province (home to Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone) contained a COVID-19 outbreak in May 2021.
State-run water supply and electricity enterprises cut tariffs by 3-5% to facilitate people to combat COVID-19. The reduced tariffs will last for three months.
Impact on workers and children:
According to the taskforce members, many workers left the special economic zone and thus spread the virus in the community. With over 5,000 workers in the zone, and a lack of job opportunities due to lockdown, they were not able to work and thus had inadequate food.
Over 50,000 workers were fired or made redundant during the second COVID-19 outbreak in April 2021. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, around 10,000 workers from 11 garment factories and two steel plants in the capital suffered from that. Since they were not covered by the Social Security Fund, they could not enjoy unemployment benefits.
The Lao tourism industry has been severely hit due to COVID-19, despite its successful avoidance of the pandemic in 2020. Workers in the tourism industry have much fewer job opportunities.
More countries and organisations donated vaccines to Laos in an effort to contain the virus. In May, the Australian government pledged to support Laos economic recovery and give one million vaccine doses to Laos. China delivered over 1,800,000 Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines in April. The US handed over hygiene supplies and protective equipment worth over 1.8 billion kip to Laos. It could lessen the burden of the Lao healthcare system.
A cut in tariffs of water supply and electricity could reduce working families’ burdens, given that they might not be able to make a living during the lockdown.
February 2021 Updates
By February 19, 2021 Laos has recorded 45 cases of COVID-19 and has not reported any deaths.
The latest Lao PDR Economic Monitor — Supporting Economic Recovery — published in January 2021 by the World Bank finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant adverse effects on growth across the country, plunging the economy into its first recession since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. The report estimates that the economy will shrink by 0.6 percent in 2020, with tourism services, wholesale and retail trade, and manufacturing most seriously affected.
Impact on workers:
Low-income workers were more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic. Approximately 16 percent of workers from the poorest 40 percent of households employed before the pandemic had lost their jobs by July 2020, compared with 11 percent of their counterparts from the top 60 percent of households.
Declining foreign and domestic demand battered the construction and manufacturing sectors, in which one-third of workers lost their jobs by July 2020. Supply chain disruptions followed by contraction in external demand led to a decline in trading volumes between Lao PDR and its major trading partners. Lower foreign demand in manufacturing goods caused firms to reduce working hours or lay off workers, according to the World Bank.
The negative economic impact fell disproportionately on informal workers, who lack labour and social protection. As in other developing countries, employment in Lao PDR is largely informal, especially in the construction, hospitality, manufacturing and transportation sectors, where less than 10 percent of workers are wage workers protected by written contract and social insurance coverage. Informal workers ace the risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of temporary economic disruptions or business closure. (Source: World Bank)
Impact on children and families:
According to the World Bank, low-income families are at risk of falling deeper into poverty because of the pandemic because household livlihoods have become less diverse, relying on fewer income sources. This makes them more vulnerable to employment shocks.
Food insecurity in Laos has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In 2018-2019, almost 20 percent of the population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity. Rising food prices, as well as job and income loss during the pandemic are putting vulnerable households at an even higher risk on food insecurity.
Schools in Bokeo Province must fully implement social distancing measures, and hand sanitizer must be made available to all students and staff, according to a notice issued by the Bokeo Provincial Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in February 2021.
July 28, 2020 Updates
On July 24, after 101 days on no new infections, Laos confirmed 1 new case of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 20.
The timber company we are in touch with in Laos has said it has been supplying more hand sanitizer gel, soaps and masks to its workers in each regional office in response to the new COVID-19 case in July. It is continuously doing awareness-raising among workers in health & safety and is applying strict hygiene practices at every work site, such as mandatory hand-washing, and teaching good practices when using toilet facilities etc. The company has reported an increase in orders from foreign buyers this month compared to June.
According to feedback from another factory in the construction equipment sector, they have installed barriers in the canteen to support physical distancing practices as can be see in the photos below.
Following a trend of shrinking of orders both from domestic and international buyers, things have started looking up since June.
National travel restrictions have been lifted, thereby easing previous challenges of interprovincial travel between production sites.
With only 19 cases of COVID-19 recorded nationwide in total, Laos began easing a 2-month lockdown in May. Construction projects, plants, and factories may all resume operations now.
Garments factories have resumed production to normal pace since the middle of May after pausing/reduced their production for about 1 month.
An interview with one garment factory showed that they cannot expect to receive orders with some foreign clients until the end of 2020.
There have been reports of factory workers in other sectors such as the garment sector, not receiving their wages or having their wage payments postponed.
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