Source: Vientiane Times
A patient who contracted Covid-19 and has been undergoing treatment in hospital has tested negative for the first time, and no new infections have been reported, authorities announced today.
Addressing the daily media briefing, Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, Ministry of Health, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh described it as “good news” as everyone began welcoming Lao New Year (Pi Mai Lao), with the annual festival taking place from April 13-16.
“I received the news that one patient has had his first negative test for the virus. It is the best news for our country and the patient’s relatives,” he said.
The patient will have a second test in order to reconfirm the result before being allowed to go home.
The patient was among 19 people infected with the virus, 16 of whom are being treated at Mittaphab Hospital in Vientiane while the other three are in Luang Prabang provincial Hospital.
The 18 other people had only mild symptoms, Dr Rattanaxay said.
There have been no new infections, with samples taken from 35 people yielding negative results. Of these, 17 people had been in close contact with the patients while another 18 had developed symptoms, including a Lao worker who recently returned from Thailand.
The good news – the recovery of the patient and no new cases – comes as the government is tightening measures to prevent the virus from spreading during the Lao New Year holiday – the nation’s biggest festive event.
The Prime Minister’s Office yesterday announced the prohibition of the sale of beer and all forms of alcohol over the new year holiday and up until April 20.
This is the first time in memory that the sale of alcoholic drinks has been banned during Lao New Year.
The prohibition is an attempt to prevent people gathering for drinking sessions and so limit the spread of the virus.
Dr Rattanaxay underlined the need for everyone to strictly apply social distancing during the new year period to avoid spreading the virus.
Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion, Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphome, said transmission of the virus from one person to another during social gatherings was a big concern.
“We are extremely concerned about what might happen during the new year festival when people socialise on a regular basis,” he said, calling on everyone not to hold parties or other social events during this year’s Pi Mai Lao.
Given that the Covid-19 virus can survive in water for four days, Dr Rattanaxay warned people to stay vigilant and even not to take part in Song Pha (pouring perfumed water on Buddha images) at temples, which is one of the main new year traditions.
This popular custom involves people using the perfumed water poured over Buddha images to splash on their heads and faces for good luck. The water may also be taken home for family members, but this only increases the risk of spreading Covid-19.
“Imagine that if an infected person has transmitted the virus into the (perfumed) water and is among a crowd of people taking part in Song Pha,” Dr Rattanaxay said, suggesting that it was better to perform the ceremony at home.
As of 6 am today, Covid-19 had infected more than 1.8 million people in 210 countries. It has claimed more than 114,000 lives, while more than 442,000 people have been discharged from hospital, according to Dr Rattanaxay.