On April 21, 2020, following the Prime Minister’s extension of the lockdown measures in Laos to May 3, the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control (the Taskforce) issued guidance on what companies must do to be allowed to operate during the lockdown, entitled Instructions on the Conditions and Measures for Eligible Private Companies to Operate during the COVID-19 Outbreak.
The instructions, which are effective from April 21, provide a set of requirements that private sector businesses, projects (e.g., concession activities), legal entities, and factories (collectively called Operators) must comply with to resume operations. Operators must be inspected by a specific unit mandated by the Taskforce before resuming any operations, and an agreement or memorandum between the Operators and the Taskforce unit must be signed to confirm that the Operators are compliant. Although not expressly indicated in the instruction, we understand that all companies may need authorization from the Taskforce to resume operations after the lockdown ends. Further information is expected on this in the coming weeks.
Conditions for Operation
- Operators must have a designated working area, and staff dormitories must be of a good standard. Those with a large workforce, or a high enough risk factor, must have an isolated quarantine area and an emergency transportation vehicle on standby. The original text does not clarify what is meant by “large workforce”, as it does not provide a threshold thereof, or “high risk,” but we understand that these recommendations must be implemented as practically possible, and that the authorities will not expect, for example, small enterprises to have a staff dormitory.
- The working environment must be spacious enough to guarantee social distancing of at least one meter.
- Dormitories must be sufficiently spacious and beds must be at least one meter apart.
- The canteen must be sufficiently spacious, and Operators must guarantee good hygiene, prohibit the common use of utensils, and ensure one-meter social distancing.
- If dormitories are not situated on site, employee transportation must provide sufficient space to enable one-meter social distancing.
- Sufficient 24-hour clean water, handwashing stations, alcohol gel, and masks must be available for all employees.
- 24-hour security must be provided, authorization to leave must be required the workplace, and outsiders must be prohibited.
- Cleaners must properly dispose of waste that may cause COVID-19 infections, such as by providing covered trashcans.
- Operators must facilitate inspections and visits from medical teams from the relevant authority. We understand that expenses linked to inspections must be borne by the Operators.
Measures that Operators Must Implement
- Body temperature must be checked, and alcohol gel must be provided to all employees, prior to entering or leaving the working area, dormitory, and canteen, from morning to evening every day. Operators must also keep a written record the symptoms of each person. If any employee exhibits a fever (above 37.5 degrees), cough, or difficulties in breathing, they must be separated from the working area and put in isolated quarantine. Operators should immediately alert the authorities by using emergency numbers 165 and 166, and arrange to have the person examined by a doctor.
- Masks must be provided to all employees during working times, and other times when people must be in the same location as others. Handwashing stations must be situated at convenient locations for the employees.
- Social distancing of one meter must be guaranteed for employees. Activities where this social distancing requirement cannot be guaranteed are prohibited. The regulation provides a non-exhaustive list of examples, such as sports and celebrations. However, this requirement may be broadly interpreted—we understand that social drinking after work with colleagues is not permitted, for example.
- Specific prevention measures for suppliers from outside the company must be put in place, similar to those required for employees.
- Working areas, canteens, toilets, dormitories, warehouses, and storage rooms must be cleaned every day after working hours.
- Hiring new employees, consultants, and specialists, from abroad or from Laos, must be postponed until the outbreak is contained.
There are no details on when inspections will take place, and further guidance is expected in due course. Tilleke & Gibbins will continue to keep you informed as the situation develops.