Almost half of those tested return positive result as Omicron takes hold of impoverished nation
Buddhist monks pray at a temple in Lao capital Vientiane. The tiny communist country has seen a sudden upsurge in Covid-19 cases. (Photo: AFP)
The number of daily Covid-19 cases has surged to record highs in Laos with nearly 50 percent of people tested returning positive results, according to a dispatch from the official state-run Laos News Agency.
Some 2,404 new Covid-19 cases and four deaths were detected on April 1 out of 5,670 people tested for the disease. Another 2,665 cases and four fatalities were reported over the previous 24 hours with the pandemic entering its third wave.
“We are now focusing on accelerating vaccinations across the country,” said Sisavath Soutthanilaxay, deputy director general of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control. “We urge all of you to bring your children and family to be fully vaccinated.”
Laos was reporting fewer than 250 cases a day three weeks ago, but numbers have risen sharply as the Omicron variant erupted. The communist state has also been slow in rolling out its vaccination program with just 61 percent of its population currently fully vaccinated.
Pandemic numbers in Laos stand in sharp contrast to neighboring Cambodia, where cases have fallen to fewer than 50 a day with the country now fully reopened after achieving herd immunity with 80 percent inoculated by early November.
The Cambodian government says more than 90 percent of its population is now fully vaccinated and a swift rollout of vaccinations has resulted in more than half of Cambodians having received a booster shot.
“It is very important to get a booster shot because if you get all recommended doses, regardless of the type of the vaccine you have received, after three months your immune system will be weakened”
In September, Cambodia sent 200,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Laos when the pandemic was entering its second wave, which had left authorities struggling to cope amid harsh lockdowns and food shortages as the economy crumbled
Amid vaccine shortages, Laos authorities went so far as to recommend herbal, or traditional, medicines as a means of combating the disease, including plant extracts to help build immunity.
The Laos Alliance Pharmaceutical Group recently donated 1,000 packs of the Covid-19 medicine Molnupivir to the Military Medical Department of the Lao People’s Army.
“It is very important to get a booster shot because if you get all recommended doses, regardless of the type of the vaccine you have received, after three months your immune system will be weakened,” said Sisavath.
Laos has recorded a total of 181,967 Covid-19 cases and 673 deaths with 6,436 cases still active. Of the new confirmed cases, 2,391 were classified as domestic infections and 13 were imported.
The highest number of domestic transmissions were recorded in Vientiane.
In a bid to counter the economic fallout, authorities have reopened the country for tourists, however some restrictions remain in place. Tourists must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival, undertake a PCR test before departure and hold a mandated health insurance policy.
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