Golden Triangle SEZ closes temporarily to prevent spread of virus

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Bokeo province has temporarily barred entry and exit in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Tonpheung district, in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Head of the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism office, Dr Somkhit Vongpanya, told Vientiane Times on Friday the zone was temporarily closed because officials were spraying disinfectant in the area.

Although there have been no reports of infection with the virus in Laos, this step was being taken as a precautionary measure given that Bokeo shares a border with China, he said.

A committee that operates in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone said the ban on entry and exit was in place from February 9-25.

Bokeo authorities will not allow people who live outside the zone to enter it. Anyone living inside the zone may leave if they wish but will not be allowed to reenter until after February 25.

Due to the closure of the zone, Bokeo province has indefinitely postponed the Kapok Flower Festival, which was scheduled to take place this month.

The coronavirus is having a significant impact on Laos’ tourism industry as the Chinese, who comprise a large percentage of visitors, are no longer coming to Laos due to travel restrictions.

The government had hoped to draw 1.2 million Chinese tourists to Laos this year but may have to lower expectations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

In addition, the total overall number of visitors may fall this year as some people may be reluctant to come to Laos because of its proximity to China, where the virus outbreak is severe.

A total of 1,113 people had died of the disease and 44,653 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection had been reported in 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in China, Xinhua reported on February 12.

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