Govt to make swine flu border checks
The government held a special meeting in Vientiane yesterday to discuss preventive measures in response to the swine flu outbreak, which is believed to have killed 159 people in Mexico .
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, agreed to buy 10 thermal imaging machines and install them at the country's major immigration border checkpoints.
The machines would help officials identify anyone entering the country with a high temperature and create confidence among Lao people, foreigners living in Laos and people travelling to Laos . Health officials would be on hand at international border checkpoints to ensure anyone found to be infected could be treated immediately.
“We should immediately buy the machines to install at our borders by using government reserves,” the Prime Minister said.
Each machine could cost about US$25,000. The decision to buy them was made after the government found visitors to Laos included people coming from the United States , Spain and other affected countries.
Mr Bouasone placed emphasis on border control while also raising the issue of the illegal importation of pork from neighbouring countries.
He advised the public not to panic about the situation as the government was aware of the need to ensure the virus did not spread to Laos .
“We should not be negligent in our response to the swine flu outbreak. If it occurs in Laos , it could impact on our economy and the SEA Games. We should not get too alarmed about the situation but we should remain on the alert.”
“We should immediately set up medical units as well as a quarantine and treatment centre but we have to ensure the centre has a clearly defined role and make sure equipment and funding are available so the centre can fulfil its responsibilities,” he said.
The Prime Minister said masks should be made available and health officials would be assigned to work at border checkpoints.
He said coordinating offices such as the National Avian Human Influenza Coordination Office needed to be improved. If the virus was detected officials would inform the coordinating office immediately.
The Health Ministry would need to issue a notice to the provinces, including hospitals, advising them to be prepared for a possible outbreak in Laos . The Agriculture Ministry needed to give advice to farmers on how to breed pigs hygienically to avoid any possible repercussions.
Buying and selling pork would continue in markets. Officials have been asked to inspect safety standards in line with pre-existing avian flu mechanisms. Mr Bouasone urged officials to share information with the World Health Organisation and monitor the situation together. All sectors needed to work actively and responsibly to protect Laos from the virus.
“We have agreed to write and distribute a handbook detailing background information about the virus, its symptoms, effects and preventative measures so people have a better understanding of the virus,” he said.
By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update April 30, 2009)