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Lao Taskforce Issues Omicron Alert

Source: Vientiane Times

The National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control has advised medical workers in Champassak province and at health departments across the country to be on the alert for the Omicron variant of Covid-19 after three Lao nationals tested positive for the virus upon their return from Thailand.

The warning was issued in an attempt to prevent a community outbreak of Omicron in Laos. All those who came into contact with these three individuals are now self-isolating.

They include officials working at the Vangtao International Checkpoint in Champassak province, staff at the isolation centre, and drivers and medical staff who had contact with the returnees when they crossed the border from Thailand into Laos.

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The three Omicron cases were detected when health authorities conducted a random check of 25 samples collected at hospitals in Vientiane and the provinces of Champassak, Savannakhet, Borikhamxay, Xieng Khuang and Bokeo. The other 22 samples tested positive for the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Addressing a press briefing on Friday, Director General of the Communicable Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Health, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, said that even though no locally-transmitted cases of Omicron had been identified, 25 people had tested positive for this variant, with most arriving on international flights.

“It is essential for everyone to strictly comply with the Covid prevention and control and measures, while vaccination is strongly advised to reduce the infection rate and bring the virus outbreak under control,” Dr Rattanaxay said. He also advised everyone to have a booster jab.

The World Health Organisation has urged countries around the world not to be complacent about the Omicron variant because of the perception that it is not as severe as other Covid variants.

But Omicron has already claimed more than 500,000 lives since it emerged 5-6 months ago. The world is still in the middle of a pandemic and many countries have not yet passed the peak. In Europe over the past week, 53 percent of Covid infections were identified as Omicron, while the global death toll from Omicron was 35 percent.

The Lao Party and government are doing everything possible to ensure that Lao citizens are safe from the impacts of Covid-19, including revitalising the economy, ensuring overall public safety, and encouraging a ‘new normal’ way of life.

On February 10, a total of 424 new infections and four deaths from Covid were reported, of which 416 infections were locally transmitted.

Vientiane reported 87 new cases, Xieng Khuang 75, Huaphan 33, Xayaboury 41, Borikhamxay 36, Saravan 3, Savannakhet 28, Xekong 0, Oudomxay 5, Phongsaly 3, Vientiane province 15, Attapeu 38, Bokeo 7, Khammuan 10, Luang Prabang 6, Xaysomboun 16, Champassak 13 and Luang Namtha 1.

More than 4.8 million people (65.59 percent of the population) have now received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and more than 4.2 million people (57.62 percent) have been fully vaccinated.