Laos prepares for worsening Covid-19 scenario

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Although there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Laos so far, authorities will undergo training and practice in how to handle cases of infection and an outbreak in the country, a senior health official has said.

The training is planned for this week, Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Muongpak, told foreign diplomats and representatives from international organisations in Laos last week.

Responding to a question raised by a foreign representative on how well Laos is prepared to handle an outbreak, Dr Phouthone said “We have studied measures in this regard.”

Having no confirmed cases of the virus, Laos is categorised as Level I. The Level II scenario is designated for a country where infection is confirmed. Level III categorises a country where a cluster infection is reported, and Level IV is the designation given to a country where community infection has occurred.

“Next week, we will train officials in charge of the matter how to deal with the next three levels,” Dr Phouthone told participants at last week’s meeting, which briefed foreign diplomats on virus prevention efforts and related information.

The deputy minister, who is Deputy Head of the Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 prevention and control, said health authorities are doing their best to keep Laos in the Level I category.

The deputy minister called for diplomats to help find reliable foreign suppliers of important equipment for virus prevention which is not manufactured in Laos.

There are factories in Laos that make alcohol-based handrub, which are able to meet current demand, but masks and personal protective equipment are all imported.

Laos is now seeking more foreign suppliers amid the growing need for such supplies by other countries as they too strive to prevent and control the deadly virus.

Lao health authorities have been working with the World Health Organisation to prioritise a list of immediate and longer-term needs with respect to equipment, according to the deputy minister.

The government has allocated 10 billion kip to virus prevention and control. In addition, authorities have sourced assistance and support from the general public. Many countries have also provided assistance, especially equipment needed for the prevention and control effort. To prevent the virus from spreading into Laos, health authorities have intensified surveillance and tightened up scanning at ports of entry.

Diagnostic equipment has been installed in provinces at greatest risk so that health authorities can promptly diagnose the presence of the virus, Dr Phouthone said. Monitoring and quarantine measures are being imposed on travellers who have had close contact with infected persons, as well as people entering Laos from outbreak countries.

The Taskforce Committee has asked tour operators to suspend tours to outbreak countries and not to bring foreign tour groups from outbreak regions to Laos.

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