Several private schools, most in Laos’ capital Vientiane, have closed down as fears over the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (nCoV) take hold in the Southeast Asian country, state media reported on Wednesday.
According to a report in the Vientiane Times, Director General of the Ministry of Education and Sports’ General Education Department Sisouk Vongvichit confirmed that the ministry was aware of the school closings.
“It is fine for schools to close in view of the current situation. But they must ensure that their teaching goals are achieved,” she said.
She added that the ministry did not currently have plans to order those schools to remain open because it was a private decision of each school’s management, and there was no need to order other schools to follow suit because there are no reports of the virus’ spread in Laos.
The Vientiane Times report also said that on Monday, Lao Health authorities said there were no cases and there were no confirmed infections in Laos, but the Ministry of Education and Sports advised teachers and students to monitor the situation and to look to the Ministry of Health for updates.
The postponement of spring semester in China, however, has affected several Lao students in that country. China’s Ministry of Education has not yet announced new start dates for the semester, which would normally start after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Flights to China suspended
Lao Airlines, meanwhile, has temporarily suspended several direct flight routes to China as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised citizens to avoid traveling to countries where the virus is spreading.
The announcement came as the number of newly confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, officially termed nCoV-2019 (Wuhan) by the World Health Organization (WHO), jumped to 6,057 from 4,409 only a day earlier.
The virus has killed 132 people to date, with 125 of those deaths in the central Chinese province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the provincial capital. Laos shares a 420 km (262 mile) long border with China and many Chinese have moved to Laos for work in recent years.
The Vientiane-Shanghai route was suspended Thursday, while Vientiane-Hangzhou will be halted starting Feb. 5, and Vientiane-Changzhou will be held from Feb. 8.
A Lao Airlines official told RFA’s Lao Service Wednesday that another announcement would follow after updates from the Chinese government.
Two more flight routes originating in Luangprabang. to Hainan and Shanghai, are also suspended.
However, Luangprabang flights to Kunming, Changsha, and Jinghong remain open according to an official at the Luangprabang airport.
”Luangprabang-Shanghai and Luangprabang-Hainan start closing down today. [The flight] to Hainan will be open until March,” the official told RFA Wednesday, adding, “Luangprabang to Kunming still operating as normal.”
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Manichanh Phimphachanh. Written in English by Eugene Whong.