Foreign ministers from China and ASEAN are planning to hold an emergency meeting this month to discuss the new coronavirus outbreak.
According to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review, the conference will be held as early as February 20 and will be hosted by Laos. At the meeting, foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will share information and improve coordination among China and the 10-nation bloc in combating the virus.
The new Coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei Province, has now resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people and has spread to nearly every country in Southeast Asia.
Indonesia, Myanmar, and Laos, have yet to report a confirmed case of the virus in their territories.
Lao Minister of Health, Professor Bounkong Sihavong, spoke at a press conference in Vientiane in late January responding to rumors of patients in Lao hospitals that had contracted the virus. He maintained that there had been no confirmation of any patients infected with the new coronavirus in Laos and that the government would take swift action against anyone who spread misinformation in social media.
Laos then effectively closed its borders to tourists from China, but not before at least one known carrier of the virus entered the country, traveling from Vientiane, through Vang Vieng, and then Luang Prabang.
The deaths of three residents in Phongsaly Province originally attributed to the Coronavirus have now been confirmed as having been caused by influenza.
In a recent interview, Dr. Phonebadith Sangxayalath, Director of the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology (NCLE), Ministry of Health, stated that Laos is well equipped to test for the new Coronavirus, citing his center’s ability to test for the MERS virus in recent years, and its continued surveillance of other viruses such as H1N1. Dr. Phonebadith maintains that the same principles are applied when testing for the new Coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a notice issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that an official Facebook Page called “ສູນຂ່າວສານການແພດສຸຂະສຶກສາ Centre of Information and Education for Health” is now available for accurate, realtime information on public health-related issues in Laos.