Myanmar & COVID-19

Latest COVID-19 Developments in Myanmar: April 3, 2020

By The Irrawaddy 3 April 2020

COVID-19 Patient’s Dog Spared From Execution in Myanmar

A dog left unattended after its owner was taken to hospital after testing positive for coronavirus has been spared execution.

– By Zaw Zaw Htwe

Yangon – The life of a one-year-old dog belonging to COVID-19 patients in Bago Region’s Pauk Khaung Township has been spared after it was marked out for execution.

On Thursday, U Tun Tun Oo, the regional minister for immigration and human resources, told the media that Jackie was due to be executed because the family of four was forced into hospital isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.

U Thet Min Zaw, the township parliamentarian, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the minister had allowed the German shepherd dog to be rescued.

Jackie was left alone in the house when the family was sent to hospital for isolation.

Ko Aung Kyaw Moe, the founder of the stray dog shelter Anada Myitta in Bago’s Pyay Township, told The Irrawaddy that he had received permission from the regional government to look after the dog.

He said he had planned a separate kennel for 14 days.

“I also want to study if the virus can infect both humans and animals,” said Ko Aung Kyaw Moe.

Jackie’s owner is a Pauk Khaung administrator. He and his 10-year-old son, eight-year-old daughter and 18-year-old niece are believed to have been infected with the virus from his 45-year-old wife who lives in Yangon and tested COVID-19 positive on Tuesday.

Eleven people, including four parliamentarians, who attended a meeting with the administrator, have not been tested for coronavirus and are under home quarantine, U Thet Min Zaw said.

Nine others at the meeting are in a Pauk Khaung quarantine center.


Myanmar Health Workers Sing to Lift Spirits of People in Quarantine 

Health care workers and volunteers at COVID-19 quarantine centers in Myanmar have found creative ways to entertain the people they care for and boost morale.

– By San Yamin Aung

Marching medical volunteers-turned-artists near the quarantine center in Yangon’s Hlaing Township. / Thein Htein

YANGON—Medical students, health care workers and volunteers at Myanmar’s COVID-19 quarantine centers are seeking ways to entertain people in quarantine and keep morale up while they are isolated from their families and loved ones.

Ko Thein Htein, a volunteer in a housing complex-turned-quarantine center in Yangon’s Hlaing Township, livestreamed a group of medical student volunteers playing guitar and singing popular songs to lift the spirits of those being quarantined on Thursday night. The group entertained people from the courtyards of the complex. As they played songs dedicated to Myanmar’s traditional Thingyan New Year’s Water Festival, which begins on April 13, some female medical students joined them to perform a traditional dance.

Many of the people in quarantine came out onto the center’s veranda and sang along with the songs.

“We were happy to sing the songs together. In that moment, I was cheerful and fresh,” wrote Aung Htet, one of the people quarantined at the center, on Facebook, sharing a video of the singing along with a note thanking the medical students and volunteers.

Around 334 people who returned from abroad are in quarantine at the center in Hlaing as they wait out the 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus. About 80 volunteers, including doctors and non-medical volunteers, are facilitating their stay.

Social media users have also shared videos and pictures of volunteers cheering at quarantine centers in Ayeyarwady Region and Mon and Shan states, where people who recently returned from Thailand are quarantined.

The warmth and comfort of the story offered a needed break to netizens compared to the news of losses around the world due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Zaw Thet Htwe, a supervisor of the Hlaing quarantine center, said the center has been expanded to be able to accept an additional 270 people, according to state-run newspaper The Mirror.

But he added that health workers and volunteers at the center will need personal protective equipment (PPE) in the coming weeks, as they need to be well-equipped to help quarantined people with everyday tasks, from delivering lunch and dinner to each room to collecting waste.

Myanmar had confirmed 20 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday night. One 69-year-old patient who had been undergoing treatment for stage four cancer and tested positive for COVID-19 died on Tuesday.


Myanmar Has Run Over 1,000 COVID-19 Tests; 20 Turned Out Positive

Myanmar has tested over 1,000 people for COVID-19 and will soon open a second testing lab as hospitals across the country prepare for a possible outbreak.

– By Nyein Nyein

Kandawnadi Hospital in Mandalay. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Myanmar had tested a total of 1,102 people for COVID-19 as of Thursday, 20 of whom tested positive, according to the health ministry.

Dr. Thar Tun Kyaw, a permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) told The Irrawaddy on Friday that “from January to April 2, 1,082 out of 1,102 people have tested negative using the real time PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing method.”

Myanmar has seen one death from COVID-19 and two of the confirmed cases are children—ages 8 and 10.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Thursday, nearly 900,000 people are infected with the coronavirus and more than 45,000 have died globally.

The Myanmar government is preparing for a potentially large outbreak and has put community quarantine measures in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The MOHS is planning to open a second laboratory for COVID-19 testing in Mandalay next week.

Dr. Thar Tun Kyaw said the ministry has enough medical staff and equipment but the opening of the new testing lab was delayed due to the specific requirements for the lab, as normal laboratories cannot test for the virus.

Myanmar is currently performing COVID-19 tests at its National Health Laboratory in Yangon. Until early February, Myanmar could not perform its own tests and was sending nasal swabs from suspected coronavirus cases to the WHO reference lab in Thailand. Labs performing COVID-19 tests must adhere to strict biosafety standards and MOHS has talked with the WHO about opening more testing labs.

“We need the laboratory that has at least biosafety level 3, as this coronavirus can be transmitted quickly. We are preparing the existing laboratory [in Mandalay] to meet the health specifications, so there has been some delay,” Dr. Thar Tun Kyaw explained.

The government also plans to use four other public health laboratories, which currently run tests for tuberculosis patients, for coronavirus testing when the number of suspected patients has increased, according to Dr. Thar Tun Kyaw.

Since a couple of people who returned across the border from Thailand have tested positive for COVID-19, MOHS has warned the migrant returnees to follow health guidelines if they feel a fever, cough or sore throat.

On Wednesday, the government urged Myanmar citizens working in neighboring countries to wait two weeks before returning home as the government is preparing quarantine centers. The government requires anyone who crosses into the country over a land border to stay in facility quarantine for 14 days.

The ministry designated specific hospitals across the country to prepare for treating COVID-19, telling them to prepare intensive care units, isolation beds and equipment.

In Yangon, Waibargi Specialist Hospital is a designated hospital and currently treating nine COVID-19 patients in its isolation ward and two confirmed patients in its intensive care unit. Chin State’s Tedim Hospital, Mandalay’s Kandawnadi Hospital, Naypyitaw Hospital and Shan State’s Lashio General Hospital are each treating one COVID-19 patient. Pyay General Hospital in Bago is treating four confirmed patients.

“We are not worried as we have prepared hospitals across the country with intensive care units and isolation areas for COVID-19 patients,” Dr. Thar Tun Kyaw said.


Western Myanmar’s Remote Naga Area Braces for COVID-19

With few doctors and minimal supplies, the Naga Self-Administered Zone is bracing for a COVID-19 outbreak as one township already has five possible cases of the coronavirus.

– By Lei Lei

The Leshi Township sign. / Lei Lei / The Irrawaddy

YANGON—Local residents in Leshi Township in the Naga Self-Administered Zone have expressed concerns about a possible COVID-19 outbreak as the township has a serious shortage of health care workers and five residents are already being monitored for coronavirus infection.

U Kyaw Htay, a Lower House lawmaker for Leshi, told The Irrawaddy that there is only one doctor for the two public hospitals in the township.

Apart from those two hospitals, the township has only 27 healthcare centers, all understaffed, across its 72 villages. In rural areas of Myanmar like Leshi, health care centers are usually run by health care assistants and midwives.

“The Ministry [of Health and Sports] said that they don’t have enough fresh graduates to assign any here for the time being, but that they do have plans to fill the vacant positions,” said U Kyaw Htay.

Leshi borders both India and Sagaing Region’s Hkamti and Homalin townships. The Naga township has a population of over 10,000 people. As the township is located in a remote area and is not easily accessible from other parts of the country, Leshi residents usually cross into India for education and health care services.

“The five people under investigation have returned from their studies in India. Three others returned from Singapore and have now completed home quarantine. We have concerns because there are people being monitored [for the coronavirus] but we don’t have enough health care assistants. Local residents here also don’t live a healthy lifestyle, so we have some reasonable cause for concerns,” U Kyaw Htay told The Irrawaddy.

Township authorities have set up five checkpoints at crossings along the Indian border, where they will screen returnees for fevers and note down their addresses to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The government has provided 40 sets of personal protective equipment and two ventilators for the township but they still need health care workers, according to Dr. Nay Aung Soe, the township’s only doctor, at Leshi Township Hospital.

“I am worried not only about imported cases but also about local transmissions. As there have been local transmissions, I am concerned that local residents who return from those places might be infected,” he said.

Dr. Thet Zin Aung, a doctor at the public hospital in the Naga township of Lahe, says his hospital is also in need of surgical masks and chlorine to use for disinfection.

Two people in Lahe who returned from India are now being monitored for COVID-19, according to the township administrator, U Myo Nyi Nyi.

Lahe has four wards and a population of over 50,000 people but also has only two hospitals.

The Naga Self-Administered Zone, populated mostly by the Naga ethnic group, is considered one of the poorest and most underdeveloped areas in Myanmar.

Home to some 130,000 people, the zone is made up of the three townships—Lahe, Leshi and Namyun—and five sub-townships—Donhee, Htanparkway, Mobaingluk, Pansaung and Sonemara.

“The virus is still not a threat in Naga region. But we have formed committees in Leshi, Lahe and Namyun as a preventive measure,” said U K Sai, chairman of the Naga leading body, which administers the Naga zone. “We will work together with the township health department to educate the public about the coronavirus.”

In 2016, a measles outbreak killed more than 80 people across the Naga Self-Administered Zone. The area also has the highest prevalence of malaria and tuberculosis in Myanmar.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.


Myanmar Jails Two Returning Migrant Workers for Defying Quarantine

Courts in Ayeyarwaddy and Sagaing regions have jailed two recently returned migrants for refusing to obey quarantine orders.

– By Zaw Zaw Htwe

Migrant returnees arrive at a makeshift quarantine center in Lemyethna Township, Ayeyarwaddy Region. / U Soe Khaing / Facebook

YANGON—Courts in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy and Sagaing regions have jailed two men who recently returned from abroad for refusing to stay at quarantine centers as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Lawmaker U Soe Khaing from Ayeyarwaddy Region’s Lemyethna Township told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the township court sentenced a man who returned from China to three months in prison with hard labor for refusing to stay in the township quarantine center.

The returnee fled the quarantine center on Wednesday after being sent there on Saturday.

Township police arrested him on Thursday and the court sentenced him on the same day under Section 18 of the Prevention and Control of Communicable Disease Law.

The man was sent directly to prison, U Soe Khaing said.

Also on Thursday, Pale Township Court in Sagaing Region in northwest Myanmar sentenced another returnee migrant worker for failing to follow the instructions of the quarantine center supervisor earlier that day, lawmaker U Myint Kyi told The Irrawaddy.

The township court sentenced the returnee to six months in prison with labor under Section 30(a) of the Natural Disaster Management Law.

The man would be sent to prison after spending 14 days in a quarantine center, according to a local news report.

As of April 2, Myanmar had a total of 20 COVID-19 cases, including two children.


Two Children Among Latest COVID-19 Cases in Myanmar

Four relatives of a previously confirmed COVID-19 patient have tested positive; total number of cases stands at 20.

– By Nyein Nyein

The road on which a township administrator from Pauk Khaung who tested positive for COVID-19 resided is under lockdown on April 2. / Myay Latt Athan

The four new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Myanmar on Thursday evening are the children, husband and niece of a previously confirmed patient.Myanmar has 20 confirmed cases so far, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS), of whom one died on Tuesday.

The four new cases are the daughter (aged 8), son (10), husband (47) and niece (18) of the 15th COVID-19 patient to be identified in the county. All four were admitted to Pauk Khaung Hospital in Bago Region after being in home quarantine since Tuesday. They were transferred to the Pyay General Hospital late on Thursday evening, according to parliamentarian U Thet Min Zaw.

As the husband is a Pauk Khaung township administrator, two staff who work with him have been placed in the quarantine center, said U Thet Min Zaw. Although locals are concerned, he said the authorities have disinfected the home of all COVID-19 patients and put the surrounding areas in semi-lockdown.

The husband took the children from their home in Yangon’s Bahan Township to Pauk Khaung last Friday after his wife fell sick.

She tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Four lawmakers representing Bago’s Pauk Khaung constituency, including U Thet Min Zaw, have voluntarily placed themselves under home quarantine after they were in contact with the husband.

Tens of thousands of people, including healthcare workers, across Myanmar who had close contact with the confirmed cases are now in quarantine. Twenty-two out of 25 health workers who were quarantined for a 14-day period that ended on Thursday tested negative, Daw Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the Central Contagious Disease Prevention and Eradication Sub-Department at the MOHS, said on Friday. But 17 more healthcare workers related to the 16th case have been quarantined, as the patient was not truthful about her travel history.


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