VIENTIANE, July 11 (Vientiane Times/ANN): Laos authorities fear the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19 after nine imported cases have been reported in the country.
Concerns have intensified due to the increasing number of workers returning from Thailand, where there has been a spike in Delta infections, Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, told a press briefing on Friday.
“Laos has been placed at high risk for the spread of the Delta variant because of the high number of Lao workers returning from Thailand, especially if all of the virus prevention measures, including border patrols, are not strictly enforced, ” Dr Rattanaxay said.
“Thailand has recorded more than 9, 000 new cases in one day due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in local communities.”
The first three cases of the Delta variant in Laos were identified on June 30 when migrant workers returning to Champassak province tested positive for this strain.
Health officials subsequently identified four cases of the Delta variant in Savannakhet province, another in Khammuan province, and one in Vientiane.
More and more cases of the Delta variant have been identified in Europe, the US and countries that border Laos, sparking concerns about a new wave of Covid in Laos.
According to a BBC report, the Delta variant was first identified in India and now accounts for 90 percent of Covid cases in the UK.
Classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Delta variant is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, Dr Rattanaxay said.
“However, all of the approved vaccines, if two doses are given, are 90-96 percent effective in protecting against severe illness, hospitalisation and death from the virus, ” he added.
The WHO first identified the Delta variant in India in October 2020 before it spread to almost 100 countries.
Dr Rattanaxay said lessons needed to be learnt from the community outbreak of the Alpha variant (first identified in the United Kingdom last year), which erupted in Laos in April.
The virus spread after two Thai nationals (later dubbed super spreaders of Covid in Laos) illegally entered Savannakhet province and allegedly passed on the virus to others.
Laos has seen spike in imported cases of Covid 19 since the start of this month. Most of the new infections were found among Lao workers returning from Thailand, who brought the virus with them.
On Sunday, Lao authorities reported 89 new Covid infections, with the total number now standing at 2, 719.
The new infections were detected in the capital (17 imported cases), Vientiane province (2 community-acquired cases), Luang Namtha province (1 community-acquired case), Khammuan province (3 imported case), Savannakhet province (27 imported cases) and Champassak province (39 imported cases).
On Friday, Lao authorities reported 68 new Covid infections while on Saturday, authorities confirmed 93 new cases. Of the total figure, Champassak province identified two community-acquired cases on Saturday, which were reported among officials working at the border crossing.
Vientiane has not recorded any new locally-transmitted cases since last week, but Savannakhet and Champassak provinces have seen a surge in imported cases of Covid. - Vientiane Times/ANN