Myanmar Junta Accused of Restricting Oxygen Supplies

By The Irrawaddy 14 July 2021

With many COVID-19 patients in Myanmar needing oxygen, the military regime has reportedly restricted supplies. Sources said more than 700 bodies were cremated in Yangon in a day.

Claiming that many people are hoarding oxygen, the regime has ordered private oxygen plants not to refill cylinders for individuals. Many victims of COVID-19 are dying as a result and charities are struggling to help patients.

Crematoriums are overflowing in Yangon. The Irrawaddy found that 731 bodies were cremated at three major cemeteries in Yangon on Tuesday. According to sources from the Yayway Cemetery, there were only about 40 funerals per day before the current coronavirus outbreak.

“They don’t even refill oxygen for emergency use by ambulances so we have stopped our ambulance service,” said a charity worker from Botatung Township in Yangon.

“We first took a patient to Gandhi Hospital [also known as Yangon Eastern Hospital] and then Yangon General Hospital and then to the Japan Hospital [also known as the New Yangon General Hospital] and then to a 500-bed hospital. Finally, we took him back home. He died the next day. There have been many cases like that,” he added.

The regime claimed it imposed restrictions on private oxygen plants to supply COVID-19 care centers and hospitals but, in reality, formal clinics are treating relatively few patients.

Many people are being treated at home and their relatives are joining long queues at oxygen plants in Yangon, Mandalay and other cities.

Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told a meeting on Monday that there was enough oxygen in the country.

He claimed anti-junta activists were buying up supplies and spreading rumors about shortages for political gain.

“It is important not to seek political advantage out of this. This is a social and health issue, a matter of life and death and not political. It is important not to create trouble,” said the coup leader.

However, many people believe the regime is deliberately cutting oxygen supplies to kill civilians indirectly.

A COVID-19 patient from Thanlyin Township in Yangon said: “They are killing the people without using bullets. They are doing it deliberately.”

Charity workers said the numbers dying from low oxygen levels were rising in Yangon and Mandalay.

“Last night a patient died before we could find a hospital for him,” said a charity worker from Yangon.

A Mandalay charity worker said: “Oxygen suppliers have been told to supply the hospitals. It is said the factories that can refill 500 cylinders per day have to hand over 200 to the public hospitals. Those with the capacity to refill 400 cylinders have to hand over 100 to 150.”

Myanmar was hit by a wave of coronavirus in late May and cases have been reported in 296 out of 330 townships. The military regime has imposed stay-at-home orders in 74 townships, including in Yangon, Mandalay, and Sagaing regions and Chin State.

Over 57,000 COVID cases and 820 deaths have been reported between Feb. 1 and July 13 by the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports, but it is assumed the actual figures are far higher, considering the collapse in testing.

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