Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Pledges Full Support to Fight Rakhine COVID-19 Outbreak

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 28 August 2020

Yangon – Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged enough food supplies and financial support for Rakhine State, where more than 3 million people are under partial COVID-19 lockdown.

In Friday’s video conference with Rakhine State chief minister U Nyi Pu, the state’s health director Dr. Sai Win Zaw Hlaing and a volunteer Ko Saw Thaw Moe Eh, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi promised sufficient food supplies and financing.

On Aug. 26, the union government placed the whole of Rakhine State under partial lockdown after nearly 100 COVID-19 cases were reported within 12 hours.

Residents are instructed to stay at home while only essential shops are allowed to open.

As of Friday morning, the state has seen 217 positive cases, nearly one-third of the country’s COVID-19 tally.

The spike in cases came as Rakhine is reeling from fighting between government troops and the ethnic armed group, Arakan Army, in northern parts of the state and in neighboring Chin State. The armed clashes prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes to makeshift camps.

U Nyi Pu said during the video conference that many feared food shortages as trade was blocked with other states and regions due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Rakhine State has spent more than 1 billion kyats (US$748,000) in fighting the spread of coronavirus in the state, said U Nyi Pu.

He also asked the State Counselor for 1 billion kyats in emergency funding as the state has budgeted more than 85 million kyats ($640,000) to provide financial assistance to those living hand-to-mouth and to fund quarantine centers in the state.

“I dare say Rakhine will never face shortages. We will send food supplies,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

She also guaranteed enough financial assistance for the state.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi promised to provide quality personal protective equipment to volunteers at quarantine centers in Rakhine State in response to volunteer Saw Thaw Moe Eh from Yangon’s Insein Township, who is assisting at quarantine centers in the state capital, Sittwe.

However, the lack of mobile internet access in Rakhine’s seven townships was not discussed during the video conference, despite heavy criticism within the state. Mobile internet is restricted to 2G in seven townships in response to the Arakan Army insurgency.

The State Counselor pledged in a recent speech that there would be no discrimination on the basis of faith or ethnicity in the government’s fight against COVID-19.

Until Friday morning, Myanmar reported 231 COVID-19 transmissions between Aug. 16 to Aug. 28 with most of the cases in Rakhine State.

The first domestically transmitted case in a month on Aug. 16 was a 26-year-old female employee at the CB Bank in Sittwe.

As of Friday morning, 628 COVID-19 cases were reported in Myanmar, including six deaths and 349 recoveries.

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