Laos to speed up immigration services for China

A river in Laos

Laos was set to launch a fast-tracked immigration services for China as it relaxed restrictions at their shared border which was previously sealed to combat the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Diplomat reported on Friday that Laos sealed an agreement with China for a fast-tracked immigration service for Chinese travelers beginning November 1, provided they come from COVID-19-free provinces.

Travelers, however, were required to test negative for the virus, self-isolate for 14 days within China, and quarantine for 48 hours upon arrival in Laos.

The fast-track service will be confined to the Boten border gate which borders Laos’ Luang Namtha province and China’s province of Yunnan.

Four smaller border crossings, including one on the border with China and three on the border with Thailand, will also be opened but only for the transport of goods.

Meantime, Lao nationals will not be allowed to leave the country, except for workers, students, and Lao residents with family members living abroad.

Apart from having a shared border, China and Laos have further warmed up their bilateral relationship, even establishing direct links between the two countries.

One of the infrastructure projects currently underway is the Vientiane-Boten link, also known as the Laos-China railway, that will connect the two countries directly.

It is a strategic docking project between China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Laos’ strategy to convert from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub.

The railway will cross the Mekong River twice, passing through two 60-kilometer tropical forest mountains with harsh construction environments such as steep terrain, turbulent rivers, broken rock formations, and frequent water and mud rush in tunnels.

In China, the line will be connected to the rail system in Mohan through the Yuxi-Mohan railway.

Construction of the project began in December 2016 and was expected for completion and full operations by December 2021.