Lao ministry urges postponement of crowded social events

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has issued a notice discouraging the organisation of large events including weddings, as the government intensifies efforts to minimise the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Head of Office of the ministry, Mr Vansy Kuamua, signed the notice on March 10, giving provincial culture and tourism departments and relevant bodies nationwide authority to request the postponement of festivals and events, such as weddings, which draw a large crowd. 

The advisory notice is a precautionary measure to protect Laos against the virus, with Laos now being the only country in the region to have no confirmed cases.

A source from the culture ministry told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that only festive and crowded events should be postponed. But he said people should avoid crowded places to lower the risk of contracting the virus, which is highly contagious.

He said it was too early to say whether the Lao New Year celebrations would be cancelled, adding that if the situation improves people can celebrate the annual festival as usual. 

Director of the Vientiane Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Ms Vilayvone Chanthalaty, said the committee in charge of New Year celebrations would suggest cancelling crowded events such as the Miss Lao New Year procession and other public gatherings.

However, officials said people in Vientiane could go to temples to pour water over Buddha images and offer good wishes to elderly people over the Lao New Year holiday, which will run from April 13-16.

The Vientiane Information, Culture and Tourism Department will hold a meeting with the Mayor of Vientiane and higher authorities next week to discuss the possible cancellation of some state sponsored and other important events.

These activities include riverside sports contests, the Buddha image procession and other events which large numbers of people normally attend. The Miss Vientiane contest should be postponed to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak. After their meeting, Vientiane authorities will give further details, Ms Vilayvone said.

Meanwhile, the governor of Vangvieng district in Vientiane province, Mr Bounchan Malavong, said the only public Lao New Year activities that will be permitted will be the washing of Buddha images at temples.

Concerts at popular tourist sites, the Buddha image procession, the Miss Lao New Year (Nang Sangkhan) contest and other public events would be cancelled.

Luang Prabang province is also cancelling some of its customary Lao New Year rituals.

The provincial capital will hold only the most important traditional events and will limit activities deemed nonessential such as concerts, exhibitions and other large public gatherings.

Elsewhere, the planned celebration of Hai Hin’s listing as a World Heritage Site and the National Games scheduled in Xieng Khuang this month have been postponed, the Kapok Festival in Bokeo province was cancelled, and the national Best Students’ exams have been cancelled.

According to the World Health Organisation, as of March 8, over 100 countries had reported laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19. However, Laos does not so far have any confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

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