13 to 16 April was Pi Mai, the Lao national holiday that welcomes in the Buddhist new year. Usually characterised by festive gatherings, water fights and the consumption of large quantities of Beer Lao, this year it was quiet and subdued, as the country of seven million entered its third week of COVID-19 mitigation.
Laos has been under lockdown since 29 March when Prime Minister Thongloum Sisoulith ordered all non-essential activities and travel to cease in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease that had not been officially identified until 24 March – relatively late in the scheme of things. While only 19 cases had been identified as of 27 April (as a result of 1796 tests), the government is taking prudent measures given the high risk of the pandemic overwhelming its health system.
Tamara Failor, Nicola Nixon