COVID-19: Big gatherings suspended in many ASEAN countries hinh anh 1A Vientiane thoroughfare (Photo: Fair Dinkum)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Lao Government has decided to postpone all big meetings gathering large number of people for major celebrations in 2020 as a strong measure to prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Vice President Khampjam Viphavanh, who is head of the national steering committee for important celebration events of the Lao Party and State, said on March 12 that amid the complicated developments of the COVID-19 epidemic, Laos will cancel all massive public gatherings to celebrate major anniversaries planned for 2020 such as the 65th founding anniversary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (March 20), the 45th National Day (December 2) and the 100th birth anniversary of President Kaysone Phomvihane (October 13).

The celebration of those anniversaries will be conducted through the issue of publications and via the mass media.

The Vice President also required agencies at all levels and localities to postpone all events with big gatherings, and urged the public to carry out strict precautions to protect themselves.

The Southeast Asian country has yet to report any confirmed case of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry of Malaysia on March 13 announced the suspension of all outdoor assemblies and sports activities at schools nationwide.

In a statement, the ministry said that students are banned from gathering in large groups until the end of March as part of efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

In Thailand, Thiravat Hemachudha, director of the Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn University, warned that people returning from cities to their home provinces for Songkran New Year Festival could be a vector for spreading the coronavirus disease to older members of their families.

Thiravat, an epidemiologist specialising in emerging diseases, said large gatherings of local and foreign holidaymakers for parties could be a factor accelerating the spread of the disease if health measures to contain it are not strictly enforced.

By March 13 morning, Thailand reported 75 confirmed infection cases, including one fatality./.