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Laos Tightens Border Controls In Response To Omicron

Source: Vientiane Times

Lao authorities have ordered stricter controls at borders with neighbouring countries after the first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was confirmed in Thailand on Monday.

A 35-year-old American businessman travelling from Spain and transiting through Dubai tested positive for Omicron. He had lived in Spain for one year before arriving in Thailand.

According to the Bangkok Post, the man was on Emirates Airlines flight EK372 from Dubai to Suvarnabhumi Airport and showed no symptoms. Omicron was identified in an RT-PCR test conducted when the man arrived in Thailand.

This news has put Laos’ National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control on high alert as the virus could spread into Laos.

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First recorded in South Africa on November 24, Omicron is also known as B1.1.529 and it is thought that it could be much more transmissible than previous variants of the coronavirus.

The government has banned the entry of travellers from the countries of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique amid rising concern about the new variant.

The World Health Organisation says people should not panic about the emergence of Omicron, but should be prepared to deal with a possible outbreak.

According to a BBC report, Omicron has been found more countries, but it is unclear if the highly mutated variant is more infectious or better able to evade vaccines. The variant is highly contagious, according to data from South Africa and could possibly become the dominant strain worldwide.

Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department, Dr Sisavath Soutthanilaxay, said “Right now the World Health Organisation is closely monitoring the new Omicron variant because more countries have reported people infected with this strain.”

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“In response, we have imposed stronger measures and everyone entering Laos must provide a sample that can be tested for Omicron.”

Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion, Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that Lao workers were still returning from Thailand and could possibly bring the virus with them.

“The government is speeding up the vaccination programme in a bid to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.
Health authorities have held meetings to discuss the best way to prevent the spread of Omicron in Laos and how to respond to this new threat.

Authorities have urged everyone to comply with government guidelines such as wearing a face mask, observing social distancing and regularly using hand sanitiser.

As of Tuesday, the total number of Covid-19 cases reported in Laos had soared above 82,000, with 214 people dying from the virus. The number of new cases continues to rise, with the Delta variant of the virus currently being the dominant strain.