Myanmar has recorded its first cases of the latest COVID-19 variant, which is already driving infections up in many countries around the world.
Statistics released by the junta-run Ministry of Health on Monday revealed that cases of the two Omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, were detected in Myanmar on June 30.
The health ministry’s report said that the BA.4 subvariant was found in one sample and BA.5 in five samples, all from Myanmar nationals recently returned from overseas.
It said that the people infected with the variants had been treated in isolation since the cases were confirmed and that none of them are seriously ill.
The ministry added that the new Omicron variants cause less severe illness and fewer deaths than previous variants for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Less than six months after BA.4 and BA.5 were first detected in South Africa, the variants have become dominant in many countries around the world.
The parallel National Unity Government’s (NUG) Ministry of Health has also recently warned that BA.4 and BA.5 are becoming dominant in recent cases of people being reinfected with COVID-19 around the world, including neighboring Southeast Asian countries, the United States and Europe.
The NUG’s ministry has recommended that the public strictly follow preventive measures including wearing masks, avoiding crowded places and receiving the full course of jabs against COVID-19.
However, the military regime has relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, including the ban on mass gatherings, amid its attempts to show that Myanmar is returning to normalcy under its rule.
The last wave of COVID-19 hit Myanmar severely, with fatalities exceeding the number of deaths from the first two waves of the pandemic, as the junta struggled to contain the virus.
While the exact number of COVID-19 deaths is unknown thanks to under-reporting, the peak weeks of the last wave saw hundreds of fatalities, with more than 4,000 deaths reported for July and August 2021 alone.
The regime claims that over 50 per cent of the country’s 54 million-odd people have been vaccinated.
There have been 613,760 infections and 19,434 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Myanmar since the pandemic began in 2020.