Source: Vientiane Times
The Ministry of Health is considering cancelling Lao New Year festivities because of the Omicron outbreak, with the number of new Covid cases reported each day having risen from under 200 to upwards of 800.
The surge in cases has prompted the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control to declare a new wave of infections and is calling for the urgent vaccination of communities across the country to keep the virus in check.
The ministry is assessing the preparedness of hospitals and healthcare workers to cope with a spike in Covid cases. Although the number of infections is rising fast, if facilities and staff are considered to be adequate, it will not be necessary to cancel traditional Lao New Year activities.
However, if the infection rate continues to rise, the government may decide to cancel or scale back the celebrations.
Many people who contract Covid are now caring for themselves at home and using traditional plant remedies to ease their symptoms, which means they are not placing a burden on hospitals.
Studies are currently underway in Laos on the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent new variants from taking hold, in close cooperation with the World Health Organisation.
Health officials say that while the Delta variant had been the dominant strain until recently, the Omicron strain and potentially an Omicron subvariant are now spreading through the country.
The Omicron variant is known to spread faster than other strains of Covid-19.
Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, said Laos should learn from the experiences of neighbouring countries, where case numbers increased rapidly within one to two months after the Omicron variant was identified.
Although there are far fewer deaths from Omicron than from the Delta and other Covid variants, the Omicron strain can be dangerous for people over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions.
While the Lao New Year celebrations were cancelled in 2020, scaled-back festivities took place last year, with people able to mark the joyous occasion with their families, at their workplaces, and at temples.
Outdoor entertainment, street fairs, and music and dance performances on river banks, at temples and other public places were prohibited. The customary boisterous water throwing was absent from main roads and the streets remained relatively quiet as revellers stayed at home.