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No virus: Lao Diagnostic System Reliable, Health Official Says

Source: Vientiane Times

Multiple diagnostic tests conducted in Laos are standardised and can reliably detect the coronavirus, a senior health official has said.

Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, made the comment amid ongoing doubts as to whether official reports suggesting there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Laos are genuine.

Given that Laos shares a border with China where the virus emerged and is host to many Chinese workers, businesspeople and tourists, some critics in Laos and outside the country have voiced doubts over the no-case scenario.

Some 45 suspected cases had been reported in Laos as of Monday but all the tests carried out were negative.

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Critics have questioned whether Laos’ diagnostic system is accurate and reliable or whether authorities are covering up cases of the coronavirus.
Responding to such claims, Dr Rattanaxay said health authorities have made three diagnoses in each suspected case and that the results cannot be covered up or falsified.

The diagnoses were made by the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology, the Pasteur Institute (Institut Pasteur du Laos) in Vientiane, and the Microbiology Laboratory at Mahosot Hospital.

“We have not just made diagnoses at the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology only, but also sent (samples) to the Institut Pasteur du Laos for diagnosis,” the director said.

The Institut Pasteur du Laos is networking with the Institut Pasteur in France.

“If we are untruthful, what if they (Institut Pasteur du Laos) made a diagnosis that detected (the virus),” Dr Rattanaxay said. Samples have also been sent for testing at the Microbiology Laboratory at Mahosot Hospital, which has a research cooperation programme with Oxford University in the United Kingdom. 

“One person was tested three times (at the three labs),” Dr Rattanaxay said, referring to a suspected case.

The director also said two foreign experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are based at the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology.  

“It’s impossible to cover up information,” he said.

Samples taken from people in Laos suspected of having the virus have also undergone diagnosis by WHO in Australia and they all tested negative, Dr Rattanaxay said.

The National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology has been certified by the WHO for flu diagnoses. The WHO inspects the Centre every year to check that it meets the required standards.

Laos, Brunei and Myanmar are the only three Asean member countries to have no confirmed case of the virus so far.