Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Military Begins Treating Civilian COVID-19 Patients as Govt Facilities Struggle to Cope

By Htet Naing Zaw 25 September 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) started treating 150 civilian COVID-19 patients at its Military Medical Corps Center in Yangon’s Hmawbi Township on Friday morning, amid a serious spike in daily cases in the city since late last month.

Previously, the Tatmadaw only provided treatment for military personnel, veterans and their relatives, with assistance to civilians limited to providing accommodation and food for those in quarantine. It also dispatched some doctors to one of the government’s COVID-19 hospitals on the outskirts of Yangon at the government’s request.

The patients’ admission to the military medical center came a few days after military officials offered the Tatmadaw’s assistance to the government, which is heavily burdened by the COVID-19 health crisis.

As of Friday afternoon, Myanmar had 8,514 positive cases with 172 deaths. More than half of the positive cases are in Yangon. Over 11,000 people are under quarantine.

The surge in cases has overwhelmed the city’s three COVID hospitals, forcing the city government to build temporary hospitals and quarantine sites on a football pitch and at some housing complexes. So far, the government has borne all the costs.

Military spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Friday that 150 civilian patients were admitted on the day, adding that the Tatmadaw will bear all the costs of their treatment.

“This is the first time we have provided treatment for civilian patients,” he said.

However, he didn’t say whether the hospital admissions were made on Friday as the result of a sudden request from the government.

The Irrawaddy’s attempts to contact Yangon regional health authorities to obtain a comment about civil-military cooperation on COVID-19 treatment were unsuccessful.

Maj-Gen Zaw Min  Tun said a total of 272 rooms had been prepared at the center in Hmawbi, adding that the Myanmar military is working to add 100 more rooms. Moreover, it has prepared more than 200 rooms at a military training school in Ye Mon, a garrison town near Yangon, and is also preparing to provide treatment for over 1,000 civilians at its transit center in Hline Township.

The increased cooperation is the result of the Tatmadaw’s offer to provide assistance amid a daily increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, with new infections far outpacing recoveries, said Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi, the director of contagious disease prevention and eradication at the Ministry of Health and Sports.

“I heard the Tatmadaw said they are ready to provide treatment, and have also offered to assist in quarantine. I don’t know the details. But I think the government has coordinated well with the Tatmadaw,” Dr. Khin Khin Gyi said.

Apart from the civilian patients, the Myanmar military is also treating 275 monks from Ywama Monastery who recently tested positive for the coronavirus, at a converted hospital at the Kyauktawgyi Buddha Shrine in Yangon’s Insein Township.

The Tatmadaw has so far reported 70 COVID-19 cases within its own ranks, 17 of whom were infected during the first wave and have recovered. Two soldiers have died of the disease and the rest of are in stable condition.

There are 304 quarantine centers across the country including 53 in Yangon, with 5,681 persons in quarantine as of Thursday, according to the Yangon regional government.

The Tatmadaw operates 16 quarantine centers across the country and can accept around 9,000 people.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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