Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Military Offers More COVID-19 Quarantine Beds to Civilians

By Thiha Lwin 17 September 2020

Myanmar’s military or Tatmadaw predicts that more than 16,000 people and nearly 240 of its personnel will have been infected with coronavirus by the end of September if the outbreak cannot be controlled.

Since March, the Tatmadaw has reported 46 COVID-19 confirmed cases, 18 of them are domestically transmitted and 28 others are imported.

As of Thursday morning, Myanmar has reported 3,894 COVID-19 cases, 46 deaths and 908 recoveries.

Major General Zaw Min Tun of the military’s Tatmadaw True News Information Team recently talked to The Irrawaddy’s Thiha Lwin about military actions to curb the spread.

The Tatmadaw predicts that 16,151 people might have contracted coronavirus by the end of September. How is that prediction made?

Military medics based their assessments on the number of cases in the past and at present and the percentage increase in Yangon and Rakhine State, where the second-highest number of cases are recorded. The prediction is based on calculating the national population in relation to the percentage of infected patients.

The Tatmadaw plans for worst-case scenarios from a defense and security perspective. So we have imagined the possible scenarios so that we can make preparations.

How many quarantine centers has the Tatmadaw prepared? How many people can the centers take?

We have prepared our transit centers in Hlaing Township in Yangon and Naypyitaw for quarantine. And there are also regional transit centers that have been prepared for quarantine. People are only being quarantined at transit centers in Hlaing, Naypyitaw and Shwenyaung [in Shan State].

So far we have accepted over 2,000 people each at transit centers in Hlaing and Naypyitaw. The transit center in Shwenyaung has accepted hundreds of people. Around 300 people are in quarantine in the Naypyitaw transit center and around 120 people are in Hlaing. The Tatmadaw provides free meals and health care for them.

We have 16 sites across the country where we can keep civilians in quarantine. We can accept over 9,000 people — around 7,000 in Naypyitaw, around 1,000 in Hlaing as well as in Shwenyaung, Mawlamyine and Myeik.

How many people at your quarantine centers have developed COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive?

As far as I know, there was barely anyone who developed dangerous symptoms. That’s all I can say. I have no details. Some were taken to hospital but not because of COVID-19, but because of other health problems like gynecological issues. As far as I know, no one was taken to hospital for COVID-19.

The government said it is short of quarantine sites and is looking for spaces. But there are vacant spaces in the Tatmadaw’s transit centers. Have the two sides coordinated to arrange quarantine?

In Hlaing, we accept everyone the Yangon regional government sends us, as in Naypyitaw and Shwenyaung. Most of the people there are migrant workers who have returned. We accept those who are sent to us under the arrangements of regional governments and city development committees.

How many COVID-19 patients can military hospitals handle? Do you have any civilian COVID-19 patients?

We dispatched a 40-member medical team [in shifts] to the COVID-19 center at Central Institute of Civil Service in Hlegu Township. And we have arranged medical centers in other regions and states. In Yangon Region, we have arranged a clinic in the Defence Services Liver Hospital.

No civilian patients are being treated there, as far as I know. The Tatmadaw’s COVID-19 response plans, however, include treatment of civilian patients. Mainly it is providing treatment for patients suffering from COVID-19-like symptoms.

Did the government ask the Tatmadaw to help in treating COVID-19 patients? Will it help if the government asks?

Commander-in-chief of the Defense Services [Senior General Min Aung Hlaing] has said publicly that COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment is a national issue, and Myanmar’s military will cooperate and coordinate on any requirements.

What is the Tatmadaw’s view on the government’s COVID-19 prevention and control policies?

There is the Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19 [led by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi]. There is also a working committee. We are cooperating with them. Our personnel are also taking part in those committees. The Tatmadaw is following government instructions on COVID-19.

How many personnel have been infected with coronavirus?

Forty-six. There were 17 patients during the first outbreak. They have already recovered and 29 so far in the second outbreak. Twenty-six of them are domestic transmissions. Relatives and veterans are also among those infected.

What actions are being taken to prevent the leadership from the virus?

Military personnel are working in shifts, going to work for 14 days and working from home for 14 days. You might have seen military lawmakers in Parliament wearing masks [during the first COVID-19 outbreak]. At the time there were different views. Even the WHO said wearing masks was unnecessary.

The Tatmadaw has acted because it is the strongest organization in the state’s defense. Not only personnel but also families must be always ready for the state’s defense. The organization that must always be ready should not be sick. So we have to impose stricter regulations.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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