YANGON—In a new policy aimed at reducing overcrowding at Myanmar’s hospitals, most recovered COVID-19 patients can now be discharged a minimum of 14 days after falling ill, provided they have been free of symptoms for four days, the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) announced on Monday.
The new policy drops a requirement that recovered patients remain in hospital until they have tested negative for COVID-19 twice. Previously, some recovered patients spent more than two months in hospital waiting for two negative tests, according to MOHS spokesperson Dr. Than Naing Soe.
The change is designed to reduce the burden on hospitals amid a surge in cases in Myanmar, and is based on research showing that most COVID-19 patients are not infectious beyond 14 days after contracting the virus, the MOHS said.
The ministry said COVID-19 patients who recover from a moderate illness can be discharged after a minimum of 14 days, provided they have not had any fever or respiratory symptoms for four days.
However, the minimum period for COVID-19 patients who recover after being critically ill is 21 days, Dr. Than Naing Soe said.
Patients who test positive for COVID-19 but show no symptoms must be isolated in hospital for at least 14 days before being discharged.
All discharged COVID-19 patients must remain in home isolation for an additional week, the MOHS said.
Explaining the ministry’s decision, Dr. Than Naing Soe said, “According to international research, the coronavirus cannot infect another person after existing in someone for 14 days.”
The spokesperson added, “On the other hand, the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing in Myanmar. The growing number of COVID-19 patients is putting a burden on patients, and hospital beds are in demand.”
Myanmar is in the midst of a rapid spike in cases, with nearly 100 new cases reported daily in recent days. The surge began on Aug. 16, when a 26-year-old female employee of a bank in the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe, became the first case of locally transmitted COVID-19 since July 16. The previous case was also in Rakhine.
As of Tuesday morning, Myanmar had reported 1,610 COVID-19 cases including eight deaths and 388 recoveries.
By Tuesday morning, Rakhine State had reported 563 cases since Aug, 16 while the second-hardest-hit city, Yangon had reported 507 cases since Aug. 19.
Cases have also been reported in the regions and states of Bago, Naypyitaw, Mon, Shan, Ayeyarwaddy, Tanintharyi, Karen, Kachin, Chin, Magwe and Mandalay.
As of Monday, 1,085 COVID-19 patients were being treated in hospitals across the country.
And while hospitals scramble to find beds for patients, quarantine centers in Yangon are struggling to house the increasing number of people who require isolation.
In a videoconference with Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, Dr. Chit Ko Han, deputy director of the Yangon Public Health Department, said that due to the rapid spread of the virus, the department had provided quarantine accommodation for more than 6,000 people including returnees from Rakhine and overseas countries, as well as those with a history of contact with known COVID-19 patients.
In Yangon, healthcare staff and volunteers are having increasing difficulty managing the quarantine centers due to the large influx of people. Some are reportedly not following proper quarantine guidelines.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in the videoconference that the government is considering shortening the quarantine period from 21 days to 14 days to free up space.
However, no official announcement on changes to the quarantine period has yet been made.
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