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Coronavirus

Virus-free Laos lifts shutters on shops and restaurants

State slowly reopens economy while vigilant against new cases

A Buddhist monks walks past a temple in Vientiane.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- The government of Laos said it will allow restaurants and shopping centers to reopen starting Monday as the country eases its lockdown after reporting no novel coronavirus infections for 19 consecutive days.

Friday's notice came with caveats: people stepping outside must wear face masks and maintain a social distance of one meter, while travel across provincial borders remains forbidden.

These new rules will be in place for two weeks through May 17, but a total lockdown will go back in force if new infections are detected in at least two provinces.

Apart from restaurants and shopping malls, the looser restrictions will apply to retail and service businesses such as beauty parlors and auto mechanics. Offices may reopen as well if they adopt rotating shifts.

Various recreational and leisure-oriented spaces will remain closed, including bars, cinemas, massage parlors, indoor gyms and outdoor team sporting venues.

Laos has reported a total of 19 cases to date. On March 18, the government stopped issuing visas to foreigners and shut down recreational venues. That was followed by a stay-at-home order on March 30, which was extended on April 15 to this past Monday.

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