Half of Myanmar’s Population Could Have COVID-19 in Two Weeks, UN Told

By The Irrawaddy 30 July 2021

Britain’s UN ambassador warned on Thursday that half of Myanmar’s more than 54 million people could be infected with COVID-19 in the next two weeks. “The coup has resulted in a near total collapse of the healthcare system, and healthcare workers are being attacked and arrested,” Barbara Woodward told an informal Security Council discussion on Myanmar.

“The virus is spreading through the population, very fast indeed. By some estimates, in the next two weeks, half of the population of Myanmar could be infected with COVID,” she said.

Since late last month, Myanmar has been suffering from a third wave of highly contagious COVID-19. July has turned out to be the deadliest month so far with the deaths of 5,362 as of Thursday while the daily fatalities this week haven’t dipped below 300, according to the regime’s Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS). However, the tally could be higher on the ground as there were people who died gasping for breath because of an acute shortage of bottled oxygen at their homes after being turned away by hospitals.

U Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s UN ambassador, told the Security Council, “In order to have smooth and effective COVID vaccination and providing humanitarian assistance, close monitoring by the international community is essential.”

“As such, we would like to request the UN, in particular the Security Council, to urgently establish a UN-led monitoring mechanism for effective COVID vaccination and smooth delivery of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Britain urged the council to ensure that Resolution 2565, which demands ceasefires in conflict zones to allow the safe delivery of coronavirus vaccines, is respected in Myanmar.

“With the new wave of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire across the country, it is unfortunate that more lives will be lost as the Myanmar military weaponizes COVID-19 against the people,” said Susanna Hla Hla Soe, a spokesperson for the parallel civilian National Unity Government.

The junta’s mouthpiece media this week announced that authorities are seeking help from “friendly countries” to tackle the coronavirus. As of Thursday, Myanmar had reported 289,333 positive cases since the country’s first outbreak in late March last year.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a US diplomat who serves as senior adviser for special political affairs for the US mission to the UN, said, “Humanitarian aid workers inside Burma are sounding the alarm. As a direct result of the military’s brutality and administrative failures since its coup six months ago, Burma is reeling from a surge in COVID-19 cases. This burgeoning health catastrophe comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of people remain internally displaced by the recent violence, with the World Food Program projecting between 1.5 and 2.8 million additional people in the country could now be at risk of food insecurity. In its updated Humanitarian Response Plan for Burma, the UN warned that the country ‘may be on the cusp of a much broader humanitarian crisis.’ The warning signs are loud and clear. The international community, and this council, must take them seriously before it’s too late.”

Myanmar is experiencing a major spike in COVID cases that one official from Doctors Without Borders referred to as “uncontrolled community spread”. The spike is being fueled by the military junta’s gross mismanagement of the crisis and a collapsing health sector.

With only 2.8 percent of Myanmar’s population fully vaccinated, there are now concerns the country could become a “COVID super spreader state”. And this could lead to the emergence of new variants, said the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar.

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