In Person

Intensive contact tracing will be Prioritized: Yangon COVID-19 Response Committee

By San Yamin Aung 12 May 2020

YANGON — COVID-19 is hitting Yangon – the country’s commercial capital and most populated city – the hardest with over 80 percent of Myanmar’s cases. According to the health ministry, Yangon has 145 out of 180 of Myanmar’s reported cases, including five deaths, as of May 11.

The Irrawaddy interviewed U Naing Ngan Lin, Yangon Region’s COVID-19 Control and Emergency Response Committee member and social affairs minister, about how the regional government is responding and how it is planning to contain the outbreak as business resumes and many people relax preventative measures and get back to their normal activities.

The Irrawaddy: Many businesses, shops and factories have reopened in May. People are going back to their normal activities. What is the committee doing to curb the spread of COVID-19?

U Naing Ngan Lin: We have directed township-level sub-committees in 44 townships to announce that residents must wear face masks when they leave their homes and gatherings of more than four people are banned. The announcement is effective from May 13. We will prosecute those who fail to follow the rules under the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law.

Intensive contact tracing at the city’s hotspots where COVID-19 patients are found will also be carried out as a priority. Another priority is providing quarantine to those returning from overseas and those with COVID-19 symptoms found during contact tracing at isolation centers. We are trying to control COVID-19 with those three measures.

 Will the contact tracing be conducted with the same with door-to-door medical checks seen in Insein Township [last week]?

Yes. What we did in Insein Township, we will repeat in Hlaing Tharyar Township this Saturday. Around 1,000 team members, including health workers, members of the township authorities and volunteers, will check for COVID-19 symptoms and interview residents about their travel and contact histories to find contact with known COVID-19 patients in the three places in the township where the patients were found. On Sunday, we will also conduct searches in Tamwe Township. [Ten COVID-19 cases were reported in Tamwe and five in Hlaing Tharyar].

What is the major challenge for the regional committee in containing the virus?

Public cooperation is most important in efforts to contain COVID-19. If there is a lack of compliance with preventative guidelines, it will not work no matter how hard we try. Public involvement during the 10-day Thingyan holiday was satisfactory. People did not celebrate the festival and followed the stay-at-home order to slow down the infection. But now they have to return to work, I urge people to follow all preventative guidelines, including wearing masks when outside.

It’s been nearly two months since the first coronavirus case was reported in Myanmar. What is your conclusion on the situation?

We are in control as the infection rate has not gone up very fast.

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