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Concerns Increase Over New Covid-19 Variants

Source: Vientiane Times

The National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control has expressed concern about emerging variants of the virus, as these have been shown to spread more rapidly.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has divided Covid-19 strains into two groups, namely variants of concern, which have been shown to be more virulent, and variants of interest, which have emerged more recently and which the government says it is important to monitor.

The first group comprises the Beta, Gamma, Alpha and Delta variants, while those in the second group have been named Zeta, Theta and Kappa.

Speaking at a press conference, Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, Ministry of Health, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsavanh, said the Alpha variant surfaced in Laos over the Lao New Year holiday.

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This variant is more transmissible than the original strain and has caused a large number of infections.

He said the challenges to tackling the new variants are their ability to spread rapidly and exacerbate disease symptoms. The new strains are also not as easy to detect using current PCR tests, as a test result may be negative but the virus can actually be present.

The new Covid-19 variants have been identified as the cause of community transmission in Vientiane and have been detected in multiple countries including Thailand.

The increasing number of Covid-19 infections in Thailand, where the Delta variant is spreading, is causing concern that this more infectious strain could cross the border into Laos.

Also speaking at the media briefing on Tuesday, Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control, Dr Phonepaseuth Xayamongkhoun, reported 13 more cases of Covid-19, bringing the total to 2,067, of whom three people have died.

Two of the new cases were reported in Vientiane, while Savannakhet recorded two imported cases and Champassak recorded nine imported cases.

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The new cases were identified after 1,159 tests were carried out in the previous 24 hours.

Meanwhile, 1,954 Covid-19 patients have been discharged from hospitals while others remain in Mitthaphab Hospital in Vientiane and Savannakhet and Champassak provincial hospitals until they twice test negative for the virus.

Covid-19 prevention measures such as temperature checks, social distancing, wearing of facemasks, and use of hand sanitiser remain in force at all shops, minimarts, supermarkets and markets, as well as other areas of risk.

A total of 4,062 people have been admitted to 43 quarantine centres across the country and samples taken from them are being tested for the virus.