COVID-19 Hits Myanmar Refugees in Thai IDP Camps

By The Irrawaddy 20 August 2021

Eight COVID-19 cases have been reported in two internally displaced persons (IDP) camps sheltering 20,000 refugees in Mae Hong Son Province in northern Thailand, according to the chairman of the Karen Refugee Committee, Saw Robert Htwe.

Mae La Oon IDP camp has reported six cases, while Mae Ra Moe IDP camp reported two. “The victims are family members. The two camps are in close proximity,” said Saw Robert Htwe.

The COVID-19 victims in Mae La Oon are a six-member family, including an eight-year-old boy. They tested positive on Tuesday after displaying symptoms for a week. The cases are the first in Mae La Oon, home to more than 9,000 refugees, most of them ethnic Karen and Kayah people.

“The camp has been locked down. The IDPs are short of food as they can’t go out and work now. Previously, they could earn a living by working outside the camp. But they have no income now and are having troubles,” said Saw Robert Htwe.

Mae Ra Moe IDP camp is home to over 10,000 refugees. A school teacher contracted coronavirus some two weeks ago and his child recently tested positive for COVID-19, too. The camp has been placed in lockdown, said Saw Robert Htwe.

COVID-19 patients have been isolated in the camps, while those who came into contact with them will also be tested for the virus, he added.

A number of IDP camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, including Mae La, Umphang and Tham Hin, recorded coronavirus infections last month. But there were no reported fatalities.

Over 90,000 refugees are sheltering in nine IDP camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, after fleeing armed conflicts in ethnic areas in Myanmar. Some have been in the camps for more than 30 years.

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