Myanmar Plans Emergency Coronavirus Funding, Lab Tests

By Zarni Mann 11 February 2020

MANDALAY—Myanmar’s minister of health and sports said on Tuesday that the government plans to set up an emergency fund of 300 million kyats (US$206,000) to use in tackling the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Health and Sports Minister Dr. Myint Htwe told the Lower House on Tuesday that the fund will support the ministry’s arrangements to prevent, protect against and treat the coronavirus.

The minister said the fund will be used for equipment, medicines, laboratories and protective gear in intensive care units that treat infected patients.

The minister also said that Myanmar will soon be able to do the lab tests to detect the coronavirus, as the ministry’s National Health Laboratory will soon receive reagents needed to conduct the tests. Thailand, Japan and the US have donated the reagents needed for about 350 tests. Currently, Myanmar has to send nasal swabs from tests to the World Health Organization (WHO) reference lab in Thailand.

“The regents will arrive tomorrow and our lab will be trained so that hopefully, our lab will be ready by Feb. 20,” said the minister at the Parliament session in Naypyitaw on Tuesday.

The minister also said that the results from the National Health Laboratory will still be double-checked with the WHO reference lab to ensure accurate results.

On Monday, the ministry formed a Clinical Management Committee, tasked with providing medical advice with regards to the (2019-nCoV) acute respiratory disease.

The 16-member committee is led by Dr. Thet Khaing Win, the permanent secretary of the ministry, and members included the deputy directors general of the Department of Public Health and the National Laboratory, professors, and specialists from Yangon General Hospital, Naypyitaw General Hospital, Mandalay General Hospital and Wabagi Infectious Diseases Hospital.

Dr. Myint Htwee has instructed the committee to collaborate with the medical team on treatment and observation and to give suggestions on the clinical management of each medical team.

According to the ministry, the committee is going to help and give suggestions on the investigation of patients who are to be listed as Persons Under Investigation (PUI), suspected cases, quarantined. The committee will also help to ensure quality health care and to meet the needs of those who are suspected of having coronavirus and those undergoing treatment at hospitals.

Meanwhile, the death toll from coronavirus in China has risen to more than 1,016 with over 42,000 confirmed cases, according to the Chinese National Health Commission’s figures on Tuesday. According to the WHO, there have been 319 confirmed cases and one death reported in 24 countries outside of China.

In Myanmar, according to the figures of the Ministry of Health and Sports on Tuesday, seven patients under investigation were discharged from hospitals after they made full recoveries and their laboratory results showed no evidence of coronavirus.

In addition, the ministry’s figures show that the laboratory results of 13 more patients under investigation also show no coronavirus and there have been no confirmed cases yet in the country.

There are a total of 28 patients under investigation at facilities in 17 different hospitals across the country, including Wabagi Hospital in Yangon, Naypyitaw Hospital, Mandalay General Hospital, Loikaw Hospital in Kayah State, Minpya Hospital in Rakhine State and Mawkmai and Sao San Htun hospitals in Shan State.

“The incubation period is 14 days but no one knows if it could take longer, or how many people will be infected during this time. We can’t become careless even though there have been no confirmed cases yet in our country,” said Dr. Myint Htwe.

“However, [the coronavirus] can come in anytime and is capable of human-to-human infection,” he added. “The medical teams are on standby and are being prepared for the situation. Our citizens also need to cooperate with us to prevent infection by following the health advisories from the ministry and WHO.”

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