Laos: Champassak, Savannakhet struggling to cope amid influx of returning migrant workers

VIENTIANE, July 25 (Vientiane Times/ANN): Champassak and Savannakhet provinces are under pressure as hundreds of migrant workers return from Thailand, where the Covid-19 outbreak is worsening.

Local authorities are scrambling to find places to set up new quarantine facilities to accommodate the large number of returnees.

Health officials say that up to 38 percent of returning migrant workers in Champassak province have tested positive for Covid-19, with high infection rates also recorded in Savannakhet.

Member of the Champassak Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, Dr Ratsamy Syphan, told Vientiane Times that workers are returning because of the recent surge in infections in Thailand, while the number of returnees testing positive for virus has soared in recent weeks.

Most people are returning because they have lost their jobs or want to be with their families during the pandemic, he added.

The shortage of suitable places to set up quarantine facilities is a concern, he said, as existing centres are no longer sufficient to accommodate the large number of people returning from Thailand.

The shortage of facilities is one of the reasons why some returnees are reluctant to be quarantined, they have become too crowded and living conditions are unpleasant, while there is also a lack of dormitories.

In addition, there are concerns about the increased risk of contracting Covid-19 while staying in a crowded quarantine centre.

To cope with the spike in Covid-19 cases, Champassak provincial authorities have called for additional quarantine facilities to be set up. They have also asked for more patient beds to be provided at health centres in addition those available at hospitals.

The Ministry of Health is also considering opening a temporary hospital to accommodate people who test positive for Covid-19.

Large numbers of people return via the Lao-Thai border crossing in Champassak and Savannakhet every day, with many testing positive for Covid-19 and being referred to hospitals for observation or treatment.

A senior official from the Champassak Labour and Social Welfare Department said “We are experiencing a shortage of beds for Covid-19 patients due to the increasing number of imported cases, as well as a shortage of quarantine facilities.”

Champassak authorities have requested assistance from the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in finding a solution to overcrowded hospitals as soon as possible.

Laos has so far recorded 4,762 cases of Covid after 142 more cases were reported on Sunday.

The new infections were detected in the capital (11 imported cases), Borikhamxay province (1 imported case), Khammuan (1 imported case), Savannakhet (83 imported cases), Saravan (1 imported case) and Champassak province (45 imported cases). - Vientiane Times/ANN
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