Myanmar’s Third Wave of COVID-19 Spreads to Almost 90% of Townships

By The Irrawaddy 10 July 2021

Nearly 90 percent of the country has been affected by Myanmar’s third wave of coronavirus infections, with 296 of 330 townships nationwide reporting COVID-19 cases since May.

Addressing a meeting on COVID-19 prevention and control measures on Friday, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing admitted that “the current infection [outbreak] in Myanmar is serious” and was spreading faster than the first and second waves of the coronavirus epidemic in Myanmar.

“If necessary, restrictions should be tightened so the people strictly follow the orders related to COVID-19,” he said.

The junta’s Health Ministry said in mid-June that three mutant strains of the coronavirus have been detected in Myanmar, including the Delta strain, which was first detected in India.

On Friday, Myanmar reported 64 fatalities—the highest death toll since the military coup in February—and 4,320 new COVID-19 cases, after testing 15,747 swab samples, according to the ministry.

As of Friday, Myanmar had reported a total of 184,375 COVID-19 cases with 3,685 deaths.

On Thursday, regime-controlled television announced that all schools, including private and monastic schools, will be closed until July 23. The regime reopened schools on June 1 after they had been shuttered for more than a year under the ousted civilian government due to the pandemic.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing added that the regime had an agreement with China to buy 5 million doses of vaccines, while Russia was planning to deliver the first batch of 2 million doses purchased from the country.

Additionally, the junta leader said the regime would “arrange for Myanmar Pharmaceutical Industry to manufacture the vaccines” with support from Russia, which has promised to provide technical help on vaccine production.

Myanmar reported its first cases of COVID-19 in March last year, and a second wave followed in August. In both outbreaks, public participation was huge, with healthcare professionals and volunteers at the forefront of measures to prevent and contain the disease.

After Myanmar experienced a second wave of COVID-19 in August last year, the National League for Democracy government began to implement a nationwide vaccination program on Jan. 27, days before the military coup on Feb. 1. Health-care staff and volunteer medical workers were the first to receive shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by India.

In defiance of military rule, thousands of healthcare professionals are taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and refusing to work for the military regime.

COVID-19 testing declined from between about 16,000 and 18,000 swab tests a day in January under the ousted NLD civilian government to fewer than 2,000 per day between February and early June. Swab testing increased again in late June, with over 8,000 tests conducted.

The military regime has imposed stay-at-home orders in 45 townships: three in Sagaing Region; five in Chin State; seven in Bago Region; eight in Mandalay Region; three in Shan State; three in Ayeyarwady Region; two in Naypyitaw; Gangaw in Magwe Region; three in Mon State; and 10 in Yangon Region.

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