Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar’s Rakhine State Reports 72 Local COVID-19 Transmissions in Eight Days

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 24 August 2020

YANGON—Myanmar reported a total of 72 locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 in Rakhine State in the eight days from Aug. 16 until Monday, following a period in which no local transmissions were reported in the entire country for a month, according to Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS).

From Friday evening to Monday morning alone, 53 cases—the biggest spike the country has seen so far—were reported in Rakhine State.

On Aug. 16, Myanmar reported its first local transmission in a month—a 26-year-old female employee of CB Bank in the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe, who had no overseas travel history and no recorded contact with any known COVID-19 patients. Prior to that, Myanmar’s previous local transmission was reported on July 16.

The CB Bank employee’s case was followed by a series of 71 (as of Monday morning) additional local COVID-19 transmissions in Rakhine State, all of whom were primary and secondary contacts of previously reported COVID-19 patients.

According to the Public Health Department of Rakhine State, of the 72 COVID-19 cases, 17 are medical staff including medical specialists and nurses at Sittwe Hospital.

On Aug. 23, the MOHS temporarily assigned 24 medical staff, including several medical experts and nurses, to assist at Sittwe Hospital. All of the 24 volunteered to the MOHS to be assigned to Sittwe.

A team including medical experts, lab technicians and nurses arrive in Sittwe on Sunday. / MOHS

The MOHS said it had provided to Sittwe Hospital—where most of Rakhine State’s COVID-19 patients are being treated—additional medical staff, including doctors and nurses, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and drugs.

MOHS spokesperson Dr. Than Naing Soe told The Irrawaddy the ministry had installed testing equipment at Sittwe Hospital’s COVID-19 laboratory that will allow it to conduct up to 100 tests per day.

As of Monday, 67 COVID-19 patients were being treated at Sittwe General Hospital, while three were hospitalized in Mrauk-U Township and the other two were being treated at Thandwe Township Hospital, according to the MOHS.

Currently, around 200 people who were primary or secondary contacts of known COVID-19 patients are now in quarantine and awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests, U Win Myint, Rakhine State’s municipal affairs minister, said on Monday.

Dr. Zaw Lwin, medical superintendent of the 500-bed Sittwe General Hospital, recently told The Irrawaddy the hospital had prepared facilities to treat 120 COVID-19 patients.

Capacity for an additional 100 COVID-19 patients is being prepared at the hospital’s nursing training center in case more patients are detected in the state, he added.

“We may find more patients once we conduct COVID-19 tests, because it [the coronavirus] is spreading among the public” Dr. Zaw Lwin said.

On Saturday, KBZ Bank announced it had donated 50 million kyats (US$36,830) worth of PPE including gloves and temperature reading devices to the Rakhine State government to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

KBZ Bank donated an additional 30 million kyats to the state government to provide meals to those who are confined in government quarantine facilities.

As a preventive measure, a nighttime curfew was imposed in Sittwe last Friday, and residents of the township have been instructed to stay home, said the MOHS.

As of Monday morning, 463 COVID-19 cases had been reported across the country, including six deaths and 341 recoveries. Of the total, 233 cases were transmitted locally.

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