Lao Airlines (QV, Vientiane) and Lao Skyway (LK, Vientiane) have suspended all domestic flights from Vientiane to the provinces until further notice as COVID-19 cases hit a new high in the capital city.

The suspension of domestic flights became effective on September 20, 2021. This followed a government-imposed lockdown from September 20 until September 30 after a spike in the dreaded Delta variant of the disease was reported on September 18 involving factories in Vientiane.

Destinations affected and served by both airlines include Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, and Pakse, as well as Lao Airlines' flights to Savannakhet and Lao Skyway's rotations to Phongsaly, Sam Neua, and Xieng Khouang, according to the ch-aviation schedules module.

The only international flights that arrived at Vientiane on September 28 were a Lao Airlines flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (Thailand) and a China Eastern Airlines flight from Kunming Changshui (China), Flightradar24 ADS-B data revealed. Lao Airlines is due to conduct two more special flights to Bangkok on November 5 and December 10, the airline announced.

Lao Airlines said its ticketing and reservation offices would be closed during this period but its call centre and official WhatsApp contact line remained open, according to announcements on its social media pages.

Lao Skyway carried the government lockdown notification on its website but made no further announcement.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the source of the transmission at the garment factories and the scale of the outbreak was a major concern for the local Ministry of Health who were working intensively on contact tracing, sample collection, laboratory testing, and case management.

Thousands of workers were tested, and the positivity rates increased from 31% or one in three testing positive on September 18 to more than 50% or one in two testing positive a week later. The number of confirmed cases has risen above 1,000, most of which involve young working women living in dormitories.