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Engaging with monks to understand how they plan to implement COVID-19 preventive measures

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A monk asked a question on COVID-19 during a briefing by MOH/WHO staff at Saphanthong Neua Temple, Vientiane Capital.
Credit: WHO / S Khounpaseuth

In the past couple of months, WHO has been working with the Ministry of Health, Centre of Communication and Education for Health (CCEH) to engage with mass organization like the Lao Front for National Development and the Lao Buddhist Fellowship to provide advice on safe funeral rites, practicing physical distancing when visiting temples and giving alms.  

Since there has been only 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19, adherence fatigue has become an issue. With global cases increasing and surpassing 20 million, and many countries in this region are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, Laos may be at risk of facing another COVID-19 outbreak, which could occur anytime.

Working with all sectors and building relations with community partners was necessary to ensure that we continue to stay vigilant, especially at temples when there is mass gathering, to observe and enforce COVID-19 preventive measures.

To better understand how monks can be supported, and as part of follow-up action after implementing orientation meetings for temple chief, a WHO team joined CCEH staff on a field visit to Saphanthong Neua Temple, Sisattanak District in Vientiane Capital. There was lively discussion on what monks were doing differently, pre and post COVID-19, the interaction in communities, and to explain how they can support community surveillance.

Most Ven. Athipatay Maytryjit, President of Metta Dhamma Project under the leadership of the Lao Buddhist Fellowship, agreed that we should strengthen the collaboration among partners, and appreciate the support from MOH and WHO.

CCEH Chief of Training Section Dr Boualoy Mounivong stated that “It is critical that everyone, including monks here, continues to practise all COVID-19 preventive measures like frequent handwashing and reports unusual events to health authorities using hotline 165 or 166. This will help us detect suspect cases of COVID-19 early and respond to the outbreak quickly.”

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Dr Boualoy Mounivong, Chief of Training Section at CCEH, presented on the COVID-19 preventive measures.
Credit: WHO / S Khounpaseuth

WHO Technical Officer, Dr Chitsavang Chanthavisouk joined the COVID-19 question and answer session to address questions raised by several monks.

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Dr Chitsavang Chanthavisouk, WHO technical officer answered COVID-19 questions from monks.
Credit: WHO / S Khounpaseuth

Monks needs to understand how COVID-19 is transmitted, and why it is important to monitor unusual events in community, and how their support may contribute to early detection of cluster and prevent outbreaks.

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A monk asking a question on COVID-19 transmission.
Credit: WHO / S Khounpaseuth

The next field visit will take place the following week to draw lessons learnt from monks who participated in the first orientation meeting. Observing the monks and their interaction with their communities will help to better support them when they work in community to deliver COVID-19 preventive messages, understand the resources they may need, so that community can be protected.