COVID-19 Frontline Volunteers in Myanmar in Need of Protective Equipment and Safety Training

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 5 June 2020

Yangon – A COVID-19  frontline volunteer from Pathein Township in Ayeyarwady Region has called on State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to provide enough safety equipment and training to frontline volunteers at quarantine centers.

On Friday, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a video conference with the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, Dr. Win Myat Aye, Kayah State’s minister for social affairs, Dr. Aung Kyaw Htay, and an Ayeyarwady Region frontline quarantine center volunteer.

The volunteer, Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe, at Pathein University’s quarantine center told the State Counselor that there is too little protective equipment available.

Frontline volunteers have not been trained in safety procedures and how to contact those in quarantine centers, said Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe.

Dr. Win Myat Aye said that as of Thursday, 46,663 people are under quarantine at 9,971 centers.

He added that 45,213 people have volunteered for quarantine centers.

Various volunteers have help the government in preparing quarantine centers and distributing food.

Volunteer like Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe have stayed within quarantine centers with the people who have been quarantined, cleaning rooms with disinfectant and supplying food. They have been called frontline volunteers and are most at risk of coronavirus infection.

“We feel very insecure due to a lack of equipment. We want better protection,” Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe told the State Counselor.

She also said they were using non-specialized equipment, like normal aprons, to protect themselves.

Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe is under quarantine herself and has submitted a swab sample after one of the returnees from Malaysia at Pathein University tested positive.

She also called on the State Counselor to provide enough food.

Ko Thurein Min Zin, another Pathein University frontline volunteer, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that more volunteers are urgently needed.

He said there are only four frontline volunteers at the Nanda quarantine ward at the university, which houses about 80 returnees.

There are only two frontline volunteers at the Daetha ward at the university, where about 100 returnees are quarantined.

Six other frontline volunteers, including Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe, are now under quarantine awaiting COVID-19 test results after two returnees at the Daetha ward tested positive on May 19 and 29.

Due to staff shortages, frontline volunteers often have to help with tasks which are normally done by other volunteers who are assigned outside the quarantine wards.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi promised to provide enough food and proper safety equipment for the frontline volunteers at the center.

She also pledged to ensure special safety training would be available for volunteers online.

“We value the power of volunteers. We rely on them. We can’t curb the spread of COVID-19 effectively without a force of volunteers,” she said.

On April 24, the government formed a National Volunteer Steering Unit, chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to organize the COVID-19 volunteer response.

It is due to track the number of volunteers at quarantine centers, monitor the needs of the centers, prepare free health care and medical checkups and arrange protective equipment, food and transport for volunteers.

Dr. Win Myat Aye, who also sits on the committee, said safety training had been provided to volunteers since May 15 and many new volunteers have registered.

He added that trained volunteers will be assigned to quarantine centers soon.

Since April 30, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it has brought home more than 2,800 stranded nationals in more than 10 countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, UK and US.

More than 15,000 migrants have also returned from Thailand since May 22.

All returnees from abroad are ordered to stay in quarantine for 21 days and then in isolation at home for a further seven days.

As of Friday, Myanmar has reported 236 COVID-19 cases, including six deaths and 148 recoveries with 77 cases imported from other countries.

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