With COVID-19 Confirmed Case, Myanmar’s Chin State Makes Urgent Appeal for Protective Equipment

By Zarni Mann 25 March 2020

Mandalay – The Chin State government says masks, protective equipment, medicines and disinfectant are urgently needed in its hospitals as the country’s poorest state deals with a confirmed coronavirus case.

The patient, who came back from the United States for his wedding at Keptel village in Tedim Township, is in Tedim General Hospital, which has only two doctors and few nurses.

“We only have 100 sets of PPE [personal protective equipment]. And we need much more protective gear, disinfectant and medicines to be prepared for a possible outbreak in the state,” U Soe Htet, Chin State’s municipal minister, told The Irrawaddy.

Five volunteer doctors are on their way to Tedim Hospital with medical equipment but the state authorities think the supplies will be insufficient if the virus spreads.

“Since health care in our state is very limited, we worry about increased infections and want everything to be ready. We’ve informed the Union government,” said U Soe Htet.

Keptel is under lockdown and proper equipment was needed to help stop the virus spreading, the state said.

Keptel village administrator U Doh Za Tuang told The Irrawaddy that poor hygiene is the biggest challenge.

“We’ve ordered villagers to stay in their homes and wash their hands properly but there is limited access to clean water, soap and hand sanitizers and it is still difficult to convince them,” said U Doh Za Tuang.

The administrator said masks were scarce in the village.

“We cannot find any masks. We hope that the government will provide us with basic protection and disinfectant to prevent the virus from spreading,” he added.

Keptel, 29 km west of Tedim, has been in lockdown since Tuesday and is under police guard.

All the patient’s relatives are under home quarantine and their health is being monitored.

The administrator said the village had 692 households with 3,611 residents, one midwife and two male nurses.

“We do not worry about food because the Chin State government assure us that rice and basic commodities will be sent soon. We are only worrying that the virus will spread elsewhere uncontrollably,” he added.

Some travel restrictions were lifted in Tedim and Kale Township on Wednesday morning. Buses and other vehicles are allowed to use the roads but body temperatures are being scanned and hands must be washed at checkpoints.

“People must provide their travel history at checkpoints. Anyone [who came from overseas] will not be allowed to travel and will be held in quarantine,” said U Soe Htet.

In Kale Township, which borders Chin State, road checkpoints have reopened.

In both Tedim and Kale, only a few shops are open and the streets are nearly deserted.

The authorities said some travel restrictions were being lifted to prevent food scarcities and because there are no cases of transmission reported.

“Although the towns are not in lockdown, people fear infection because the patient visited some areas of Kale and Tedim. The authorities called on people to stay at home and the roads are almost empty,” U Soe Htet added.

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