Schools in seven townships where the military-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) has imposed stay-at-home orders have closed following a spike in COVID-19 cases there.
Schools in Sagaing Region’s Tamu and Kale and Chin State’s Tonzang, Hakha, Htantalan, Falam and Tedim townships have been closed as of June 7, just a week after schools reopened nationwide.
“Schools have been closed as of Monday in seven townships where stay-at-home orders are in effect. By doing this, we intend to cut off transmission of the coronavirus,” said Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the ministry’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit.
The ministry is also using rapid test kits to screen people returning to Yangon from Sagaing and Chin, she said.
According to the ministry, 528 cases were reported in Sagaing Region from Feb. 1 to June 4. Chin State saw 319 cases with six deaths in the same period.
While only some 3 percent of people tested for coronavirus were positive in early May, the infection rate increased to between 8 and 11 percent in early June, the ministry said.
Dr. Khin Khin Gyi said the figures point to a third wave of COVID-19 in Myanmar.
Sagaing Region has so far seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases, followed by Chin State. COVID-19 cases have also reportedly increased in Yangon and Tanintharyi regions, and in Tachileik in eastern Shan State, which borders Thailand.
The ministry suspects the third wave originated in Chin State after spreading from India. It is also working to identify which variant is causing the current outbreak.
“As Sagaing Region and Chin State border India, we suspect the virus spread as a result of illegal border crossings. In that case, the cases might involve a new variant of COVID-19,” Dr. Khin Khin Gyi said.
“For the time being, we can’t yet confirm that the new variant of COVID-19 has arrived in the country. But we suspect the ongoing cases are caused by the new variant as it is quite infectious. The outbreak is currently still under control,” she said.
Authorities banned travelers from India and Bangladesh on April 17 and halted domestic flights to Kale, Tachileik, Dawei, Kawthoung and other locations on May 29.
The military regime is continuing with COVID-19 screening and vaccination programs, but most people are refusing to get a jab, as part of the nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement against the regime. Additionally, striking health workers have not yet returned to work.
According to the MOHS, there were 144,317 COVID-19 cases reported between March 23 last year and June 6 this year, of whom 3,225 died and 132,452 recovered.
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