Myanmar & COVID-19

COVID-19 Tests Taken at IDP Camps Amid Outbreak in Western Myanmar

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 25 August 2020

Yangon—Over 30 people from four camps for internally displaced people (IDP) who had contact with three COVID-19 positive staff members of Relief International (RI) in Mrauk-U, Rakhine State, will be tested for the virus.

There are more than two dozen IDP camps in Mrauk U, sheltering nearly 30,000 people fleeing fighting between government troops and the Arakan Army since early 2019.

“We have kept all the people who came into contact with them in quarantine. We have taken swabs but there was no flight today [to send the samples to Yangon]. The swabs have been sent to Sittwe,” state municipal minister U Win Myint told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

RI posted on Facebook on Sunday that three of its staff members had tested positive on August 21 and August 22. The three traveled to four Rakhine IDP camps in Mrauk-U over the past two weeks to provide health care. RI said it has not visited Rohingya villages in Mrauk-U since last year.

“We have kept the COVID-19 positive patients and those who have come into contact with them isolated. We haven’t imposed a lockdown on others at the IDP camps. But if the tests are positive, we will take further action,” said U Win Myint.

He said he did not know the names of the four camps.

According to the Mrauk-U lawmaker in the Rakhine State parliament, U Tun Tha Sein, the three RI staff members traveled to five villages, including Taungmyint, Kalarchaung, Nakan, Pipinyin and Pazunpe, which have IDP camps.

There are between 100 and 1,700 people at the camps. “Last night I asked village administrators about what preventative measures have been taken. They said no measures are in place. There are IDPs and villagers in the area,” said U Tun Tha Sein.

He warned that the camps could become a hotbed of COVID-19 transmissions without systematic health care.

Dr. Soe Win Paing, assistant director of Rakhine State Health Department, said only those who came into contact with COVID-19 positive patients are being tested for the virus.

There have been 82 COVID-19 confirmed cases in Sittwe, Thandwe, Mrauk-U and Buthidaung townships since last Tuesday and the health authorities are unable to trace all the cases, said Dr. Soe Win Paing.

Due to a surge in COVID-19 infections in Rakhine State, transport has been halted and nasal swabs are being taken to Sittwe by hearse, said Dr. Soe Win Paing.

Mrauk-U and Buthidaung townships have limited access to information as the government only allows 2G mobile internet in the township.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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