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Southern Laos struggles with influx of returning migrants

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Southern Laos’ Champasak and Savannakhet provinces are under pressure as hundreds of migrant workers return from Thailand, where the Covid-19 outbreak is worsening. VIENTIANE TIMES

Southern Laos struggles with influx of returning migrants

Southern Laos’ Champasak and Savannakhet provinces are under pressure as hundreds of migrant workers return from Thailand, where the Covid-19 outbreak is worsening.

Champasak borders Cambodia along Choam Ksan and Chheb districts in Preah Vihear province, as well as Thala Barivat and Siem Pang districts and Stung Treng town in Stung Treng province.

Local authorities are scrambling to find places to set up new quarantine facilities to accommodate the large number of returnees.

Health officials say that up to 38 per cent of returning migrant workers in Champasak province have tested positive for Covid-19, with high infection rates also recorded in Savannakhet.

Member of the Champasak Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, Dr Ratsamy Syphan, told Vientiane Times that workers are returning because of the recent surge in infections in Thailand, while the number of returnees testing positive for the virus has soared in recent weeks.

Most people are returning because they have lost their jobs or want to be with their families during the pandemic, he added.

The shortage of suitable places to set up quarantine facilities is a concern, he said, as existing centres are no longer sufficient to accommodate the large number of people returning from Thailand.

The shortage of facilities is one of the reasons why some returnees are reluctant to be quarantined, they have become too crowded and living conditions are unpleasant, while there is also a lack of dormitories.

In addition, there are concerns about the increased risk of contracting Covid-19 while staying in a crowded quarantine centre.

To cope with the spike in Covid-19 cases, Champasak provincial authorities have called for additional quarantine facilities to be set up. They have also asked for more patient beds to be provided at health centres in addition those available at hospitals.

The Ministry of Health is also considering opening a temporary hospital to accommodate people who test positive for Covid-19.

Large numbers of people return via Lao-Thai border crossings in Champasak and Savannakhet every day, with many testing positive for Covid-19 and being referred to hospitals for observation or treatment.

A senior official from the Champasak Labour and Social Welfare Department said: “We are experiencing a shortage of beds for Covid-19 patients due to the increasing number of imported cases, as well as a shortage of quarantine facilities.”

Champasak authorities have requested assistance from the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in finding a solution to overcrowded hospitals as soon as possible.

Laos has so far recorded 4,762 cases of Covid after 142 more cases were reported on July 25.

The new infections were detected in the capital (11 imported cases), Borikhamxay province (one imported case), Khammuan (one imported case), Savannakhet (83 imported cases), Saravan (one imported case) and Champasak province (45 imported cases).

VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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