Myanmar & COVID-19

Latest COVID-19 Developments in Myanmar: April 2, 2020

By The Irrawaddy 2 April 2020

The UN staff member who has COVID-19 is in a stable condition and people who had contact with her in Naypyitaw tested negative.

– By Thiha Lwin

Naypyitaw — All the people who have come into contact with a COVID-19 patient in Naypyitaw have tested negative for coronavirus, according to the head of Naypyitaw Public Health Department Dr. Myat Wunna Soe.

A 58-year-old Swiss woman, who works for the United Nations, was the first and the only COVID-19 patient so far in the capital. She tested positive last week and is in intensive care at the 1,000-bed Naypyitaw General Hospital. Her condition was stable, said Dr. Myat Wunna Soe.

She flew from Switzerland and arrived in Naypyitaw via Bangkok on March 18. She might have contracted the virus from her father who was suffering from COVID-19. She said she had been isolated within the M Gallery Hotel in Naypyitaw.

The passengers on her flight, airport security staff, her taxi driver, her domestic worker, M Gallery Hotel staff and other hotel guests have been monitored.

“The results are available. All those who have come into contact with her have tested negative. She was only sick for a day and she did not even have a temperature. She is fine and we did not need to administer oxygen to her,” said Dr. Myat Wunna Soe.

The patient will be kept in isolation in hospital and discharged when she tests negative, she said.

There are no other suspected cases in Naypyitaw, although some 700 people are under quarantine in the capital. Myanmar’s military has prepared a quarantine center in Naypyitaw for up to 15,000 people.

Sixteen COVID-19 cases had been reported in Myanmar by Wednesday and one patient, who also suffered from cancer, has died.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

Four Bago regional lawmakers have self-quarantined after being in contact with the husband of a COVID-19 patient.

– By Zaw Zaw Htwe

Bago Regional Parliament. /Bago Regional Hluttaw

YANGON—Four members of Bago regional parliament from Pauk Khaung Township have voluntarily placed themselves under home quarantine after they were in contact with the husband of a COVID-19 patient.

Lawmaker U Thet Min Zaw told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that about 20 members of the township authorities, including four members of the parliament, had contact with the township administrator after he returned last Friday from visiting his wife, who later tested for positive COVID-19, in Yangon.

The township administrator is married to a woman who lives in Yangon’s Bahan Township and worked at the International SOS Clinic, located in the Inya Lake Hotel Compound, which provides health care services to the city’s expatriate community and embassy circles. The woman tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

U Thet Min Zaw said many of the Payk Khaung Township authorities had contact with the patient’s husband at the township meeting on Saturday and Sunday. Everyone who attended the meeting, including heads of villages and wards, have also reportedly placed themselves under quarantine.

Currently, four other members of the patient’s family who live in Pauk Khaung are also under home quarantine and being tested.

“We might be happy if the test results are negative,” said U Thet Min Zaw.

The Inya Lake Hotel compound was placed under quarantine on Tuesday. Nearly 160 people, including guests, hotel staff and SOS Clinic staff are quarantined at the hotel.

About 22 people who live in the same apartment building as the COVID-19 patient in Bahan Township are also under home quarantine.

China has closed all three checkpoints on its border with Shan State after the detection of COVID-19 in Myanmar.

– By Zaw Zaw Htwe

The Myanmar-China border gate in Muse, Shan State. /Zaw Zaw/ The Irrawaddy

YANGON—China has closed its border with Shan State to anyone not transporting goods for trade, following the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar.

A local MP and border trade commerce officials based in Shan State’s Muse told The Irrawaddy on April 1 that China officially closed its side of the border across from Muse after announcing restricted entry a few days prior.

Lawmaker U Sai Kyaw Thein from Muse Constituency said China banned all entry from the Myanmar side though three border gates in Muse, although trucks and their drivers are permitted to enter for trade purposes.

Currently, the border trade market is facing difficulties, as China is not allowing its traders to cross the border to visit the Muse trade wholesale center, according to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Muse-Namkham Border Trade Chamber of Commerce (MNBTCC).

U Win Aung Khant, joint general secretary 2 of the MNBTCC, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that Myanmar traders must send their goods into China in order to do business.

Myanmar officials have asked China’s border committee to allow one person from the local chamber of commerce to visit the center to appraise goods, U Win Aung Khant said.

He added that importers of goods from China are also facing difficulties, as most of the laborers employed to load their trucks on the Chinese side are from Myanmar, but now they are not allowed to enter China.

“This entry restriction is mainly due to the COVID-19 cases reported in Myanmar. China has banned entry from the Myanmar side as a preventive measure against the spread of the virus,” U Win Aung Khant said.

Shan State government officials told local media on March 30 that China had also restricted entry of people from Myanmar through two border gates in the state, in Chinshwehaw and Yanlon Kyine, both in Laukkaing District.

However, trucks whose drivers can present medical certificates showing they are free of COVID-19 are allowed to enter the country through those gates, Shan State government officials said.

As of April 1, Myanmar had reported a total of 16 COVID-19 cases.

Across Myanmar, nine health care workers who treated COVID-19 patients have shown disease symptoms and are being monitored; 16 others who treated them are in quarantine.

– By Nyein Nyein

Nurses in surgical masks at North Okkalapa Hospital in Yangon. / The Irrawaddy

Just over a week after Myanmar confirmed its first cases of COVID-19, nine health care workers who treated coronavirus patients are now being treated at hospitals as “people under investigation” as they have mild symptoms including a cough and fever, while 16 others are at quarantine facilities, according to the Health Ministry’s spokesperson.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, director of the Central Contagious Disease Prevention and Eradication Sub-Department at the Health Ministry, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the health care workers were connected to the 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases announced between March 23 and 30.

She said the Health Ministry prioritizes the health and safety of every health care worker. She urged the public to understand that health care workers who had “contact” with COVID-19 patients do not immediately become infected if they wear masks and protective equipment, and follow safety guidelines. If the health care workers had at least 15 minutes of close contact with the patient without proper protection, they would then be at risk of exposing themselves to the coronavirus disease.

“We [health professionals] follow the infection prevention and control guidelines exactly when we treat the patients, because the health care workers are our frontline fighters. They cannot be affected. We have plans supporting their safety and [to avoid a shortage of] medical staff in this crucial time,” said Dr. Khin Khin Gyi.

Given Myanmar’s fragile health care system, many people are concerned that there may not be enough nurses and doctors to provide care for those who need it if the number of COVID-19 patients continues to increase and some health care workers have to be quarantined.

Worries have increased after a 45-year-old nurse at Yangon’s International SOS Clinic tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and a 63-year-old woman at Yangon’s North Okkalapa General Hospital tested positive on Wednesday. Rumors have spread that all doctors and nurses who had contact with the latest patient are now under quarantine at North Okkalapa Hospital.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi added that the ministry is collecting information about health care workers at North Okkalapa General Hospital. “If any health care worker does not follow the infection prevention and control guidelines, we will place them under facility quarantine,” she said.

A number of health workers and dozens of North Okkalapa residents have been quarantined after coming into contact with Myanmar’s 16th confirmed COVID-19 patient.

– By Nyein Nyein

Weibagi Specialist Hospital, where COVID-19-positive patients are being treated in Yangon. /Myo Min Soe/ The Irrawaddy

More than two dozen people who came in close contact with Myanmar’s 16th confirmed COVID-19 case are under quarantine in Yangon. The Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) is also investigating whether any medical staff were exposed at North Okkalapa General Hospital—where the patient was first admitted—after it emerged she had not initially disclosed the full truth about her travel history.

The MOHS announced the country’s 16th COVID-19 case on Wednesday evening. The 63-year-old woman, who has diabetes as an underlying illness, tested positive for the coronavirus after she was admitted to North Okkalapa General Hospital on Tuesday.

According to the MOHS, the woman has not traveled overseas recently but picked up her son, who returned from Dubai, at Yangon International Airport on March 15. She developed a high fever and fatigue and was admitted to the hospital the next day. The patient is from Ayeyarwaddy Region’s Yay Kyi Township and resides at a boardinghouse in North Okkalapa.

The woman reportedly did not tell hospital staff about her son’s recent return from overseas when first admitted to the hospital.

The patient and her son were moved to Weibagi Specialist Hospital on Wednesday evening, according to U Zaw Lwin, a lawmaker from North Okkalapa Township’s Constituency 1.

“Twenty-six other people who stay in the same hostel were sent to a quarantine center that has been opened at the Yangon Interrogation Center,” he said.

He added that authorities had disinfected the area surrounding the patient’s home, and that the road on which it is located and the nearby community “are also under semi-lockdown.” He added that the doctors and nurses who treated her at North Okkalapa General Hospital are also under quarantine.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the Central Contagious Disease Prevention and Eradication Sub-Department at the MOHS, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that health officials are still collecting information on whether any medical staff had close contact with the patient without taking the appropriate protective measures.

“Medical personnel who [were not in compliance with] the infection prevention and control guidelines will be placed under quarantine,” she said. But she added that “It won’t be a lot [of people], as social media users are [claiming].” Most health professionals follow the guidelines whenever they are in contact with any kind of patients, she said.

Myanmar so far has 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death related to the disease reported on Tuesday.

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