Myanmar & COVID-19

COVID-19 in Myanmar’s Biggest City ‘Not Under Control Yet’, Yangon Health Official Says

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 12 October 2020

YANGON—Health authorities in Yangon Region said the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to soar daily, adding that they have yet to bring the spread of local transmissions in the commercial hub under control.

Myanmar is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, with the number of cases having risen sharply since Aug. 16, when the country’s first domestic transmission in a month was detected in the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe.

As of Monday morning, Myanmar had reported a total of 27,974 COVID-19 cases including 646 deaths and 9,742 recoveries.

Between Aug. 16 and Sunday, Myanmar reported 27,600 cases including 640 deaths, compared with 374 cases and six deaths from March 23 to Aug. 16.

The Health Ministry said cases have been reported in 205 townships across 14 regions and states in the country with only Kayah State reporting no coronavirus cases.

Currently, around 1,000 to 2,000 new COVID-19 cases and between a dozen and four dozen deaths are being reported per day in the country. The number of daily cases rose in the last week of September, when Myanmar increased COVID-19 testing from 5,000 to 16,000 tests per day after introducing antigen rapid test kits.

Myanmar reported 2,158 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 1,910 cases on Sunday.

Yangon is the country’s COVID-19 hotspot, reporting around 1,000 to more than 1,900 cases per day for the past week.

The city reported 1,906 new cases on Saturday and 1,207 cases on Friday.

“Cases are rising as we increase COVID-19 testing. We have not been able to control the rate [of transmission] in the city so far,” Professor Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, a vice chairman of Yangon’s COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment committee, said in a briefing via the Skynet Up-to-Date Channel on Sunday.

Some other cities like London, Paris and China’s Wuhan experienced worse outbreaks of COVID-19 over similar time periods, Dr. Zaw Wai Soe said.

“It is just a comparison and you can see we are not that bad so far. We are not satisfied with the [number of] cases here. We don’t want anyone infected or any deaths,” Dr. Zaw Wai Soe said.

Despite Myanmar health officials’ insistence that Yangon’s COVID-19 situation is not as bad as other global cities, Myanmar’s total number of cases has overtaken those of ASEAN members like Thailand and Malaysia in a short period of time.

Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar is fourth in terms of COVID-19 cases behind the Philippines with more than 343,000 cases, Indonesia (more than 333,000) and Singapore (more than 57,800).

In terms of COVID-19 deaths, Myanmar is third behind Indonesia with more than 11,800 deaths and the Philippines (more than 6,300).

Professor Dr. Zaw Wai Soe said that in fighting COVID-19 in the city, health authorities are still using the containment strategy—hospitalizing all COVID-19-positive patients and placing everyone potentially infected with the virus in quarantine centers.

The Health Ministry said Yangon had prepared more than 10,000 hospital beds and that more than 7,500 COVID-19 patients were being treated at hospitals as of Sunday evening.

Dr. Zaw Wai Soe added that the number of cases is increasing so rapidly that health authorities are considering switching to a community containment strategy under which COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who could afford to set up quarantine spaces in their residences would be sent home to recover.

“We are still discussing it in case we need to implement it [as our next strategy],” he said.

Since Sept. 21, all residents of Yangon have been ordered to stay at home, while employees of businesses and organizations have been instructed to work from home in order to curb the spread of the virus in the city.

Garment factories in the city are under a Sept. 24 to Oct. 21 closure order, but the Health Ministry announced on Saturday that factories that pass a test of their COVID-19 prevention measures would be allowed to reopen from Monday.

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