Addressing a press conference on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Prof. Dr Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune said there was a strong risk of a new outbreak of the virus in Laos.
Ongoing outbreaks in many countries around the world, especially new outbreaks in neighbouring countries, justify the fear of more infections in Laos.
“There is a strong risk that the outbreak could spread into Laos because people have become neglectful and careless, ignoring the guidelines laid down by the taskforce,” he said, referring to the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control.
The illegal entry of people from neighbouring outbreak countries and the return of workers from those countries contribute to the high likelihood of a new outbreak.
The warning came after three more people tested positive for Covid-19 (the 50th, 51st and 52nd cases). Two of these cases were announced on Sunday and the third on Monday, bringing the total to 52.
The 51st and 52nd cases were imported, a situation which officials said was easier to contain and prevent further infection, unlike the 50th case which involved a person who illegally crossed the border into Laos.
The 50th case was a Thai businessman who has been living in Vientiane for a year but had close contact with another person who illegally crossed the border into Laos from Thailand, where a new outbreak is spreading. The infected businessman continued life as normal before he felt unwell and tested positive for Covid-19 a week later, triggering concerns over the possible spread of the virus. Authorities are attempting to trace everyone who had close contact with the man.
Fear of a new outbreak are intensifying as state and private offices organise large parties ahead of Lao New Year, when there will be an annual public holiday from April 14-16.
Amid these challenge and risks, Prof. Dr Kikeo, who has recently been named Head of the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, asked the public and authorities in charge to comply with the following measures:
*Strictly observe Covid-19 prevention and control measures imposed during Lao New Year until the end of April.
*Accelerate the vaccination programme.
*Ask businesses to support the vaccination programme via the Ministry of Health.
*Increase border patrols to prevent and regulate illegal border crossings in compliance with Covid-19 prevention measures.
*Intensify the campaign to encourage people to strictly observe Covid-19 prevention and control measures.
*Improve standards at quarantine centres and virus analysis for suspected and at-risk groups.
So far, more than 140,000 people have had their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while almost 28,000 people have had their second injection.
Prof. Dr Kikeo encouraged everyone to come forward for vaccinations, saying the vaccines were safe.
“There have been no reports of serious side effects following previous injections of the vaccine among the target groups,” the deputy prime minister told the press conference, adding that a large number of countries have used and are continuing to use these vaccines.
The government has expanded the vaccination programme to cover more target groups in addition to frontline officials.
It now covers civil servants and officials from ministries, ministry equivalent organisations, local departments, foreign embassies, international organisations and their family members, and some businesses categorised as being at risk.
The government is aiming for 22 percent of the population to be vaccinated by the end of this year and 70 percent by the end of 2022.
The three people who recently tested positive for the virus are now in hospital and all previous Covid-19 patients have been discharged. There have been no reports of deaths from the virus.
Worldwide, more than 136.6 million people are confirmed to have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 2.9 million people have died. - The Vientiane Times/ANN