Myanmar Rebel-Controlled Areas Carry Out Mass COVID-19 Testing

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 7 January 2021

Yangon — Myanmar’s two largest ethnic armed groups, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), are conducting testing for COVID-19 in their territories following a coronavirus outbreak.

Panghsang, the capital of Wa State and headquarters of the UWSA, was placed under lockdown on Thursday and an emergency has been declared in Mong La, which is controlled by the NDAA.

Both areas are in northeastern Shan State and border China. Both armed groups signed a ceasefire with the then-military government in 1989 and have total control over their territories with no interference from Myanmar’s authorities. The two groups are conducting the COVID-19 tests independently from the Naypyitaw authorities.

“We don’t know when the lockdown in Panghsang will end. It depends on test results,” said UWSA spokesman Nyi Rang.

The UWSA is carrying out citywide COVID-19 tests in Panghsang and its northern enclave at Mong Pawk, Ho Taung and Mong Pyan.

The Wa State COVID-19 committee said over 86,000 people were tested from Dec. 17 to Wednesday and 135 tested positive. Most of those infected are reportedly Chinese nationals. The UWSA issued two alerts on Wednesday asking people to cooperate in COVID-19 testing and those who have tested negative to stay at home. And the Wa authorities are treating patients at their COVID-19 centers.

A COVID-19 lab equipped by China was opened in early December in Panghsang. Chinese medics are also providing coronavirus assistance.

The NDAA has been carrying out tests in Mong La, also known as Special Region 4, since mid-December. “The pandemic has been under control in Mong La district. Over 85,000 people have been tested. We will start testing in Sele and Nanban tomorrow. Only after that will we know the situation in the entire region,” said U Kyi Myint, the special region’s general secretary.

He did not provide the number of COVID-19 cases in Mong La but said the situation is under control. Everyone in the region will be tested, he said.

“The Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] has donated pharmaceuticals and medical equipment four times. The government also provided us with rice when we quarantined workers from Myanmar. China also provided considerable aid with pharmaceuticals and medical teams,” said U Kyi Myint.

Chinese medics have been assisting COVID-19 measures since February last year in Mong La and Panghsang.

No COVID-19 infections were officially reported in Wa and Mong La until early December. A Chinese citizen who stayed in Mong La for a month and returned to China through Mong Pawk and Panghsang in Wa tested positive for coronavirus on Dec. 14. The incident prompted the two armed groups to start testing.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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