March 6, 2020
Festivals, the National Games and various social events have been postponed in line with the government’s advice on ways to keep the coronavirus out of Laos.
Similar measures are being implemented in 72 countries worldwide with almost 100,000 people (as of March 3) now being infected with the virus and at least 3,000 people having died.
It’s still good news for Laos as the country remains coronavirus-free. But we should not feel content about the situation because foreign health experts predict that no country will escape this silent killer. But there’s no way of knowing when the first case of the virus will surface in Laos.
For the time being, we must focus all our efforts on prevention. The prevention message must be promoted as strongly as possible to ensure that everyone understands the dangers posed by the virus, and the magnitude of its effects.
The wearing of face masks should be the top priority and should be encouraged by doctors and health officials, backed up by accurate information.
Some people are still confused by the mixed messages they get. Some doctors say people who are not infected don’t need to wear a mask, while others say that everyone should wear a mask when going to a crowded place. There are also other conflicting messages on social media.
“I don’t know what’s the right thing to do.” “What information is incorrect?” These are some of the sentiments coming across in public discussions.
I would like the Ministry of Health to publish a brochure explaining the best ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus instead of just giving advice verbally. In particular, the ministry needs to make it clear who should wear a mask and why.
The postponement of social events is good because it may help to reduce the risk of an outbreak. But plenty of gatherings are still taking place, such as annual village festivals, weddings, funerals and concerts.
In addition, I think we need specific preventive measures that apply to markets as well as to schools and other educational institutions.
Right now, there are no measures in place to stop the potential spread of the virus in crowded areas like these. I think it’s definitely time to impose strong measures in such places, where people and students come from many different areas and mix together. Some of them may have just arrived from neighbouring countries where the virus is already spreading.
This is in no way a panic reaction but it has been shown that effective preventive measures can reduce the rate of transmission among humans. And let’s remember the old adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’, which is now more relevant than ever.