Laos’ Ministry of Health confirmed the country’s first two cases of the novel coranavirus (COVID-19) on Tuesday (March 24), according to a news report by Thai state-owned media MCOT.
Both cases were uncovered in the capital Vientiane, with a 28-year-old male hotel worker and a 36-year-old female tour guide testing positive. Both had reportedly travelled abroad recently and worked closely with foreigners.
Until this announcement, Laos had been the final country in Southeast Asia to not have any recorded cases as Myanmar also confirmed its first two positive tests earlier in the day.
Laos’ ‘virus-free’ status was always in doubt as the communist country – in which all press and television is tightly controlled by the government – shares a 420km border with China, receives a significant amount of Chinese tourists each year, and has no capability to test for the virus beyond the capital in provincial areas.