Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Uses New Test Kits to Intensify COVID-19 Containment Strategy

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 1 October 2020

Yangon – Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports has started using COVID-19 antigen test kits in Yangon on Tuesday to do more to test, trace and isolate in the city’s “all-out battle” against coronavirus.

Myanmar has imported about 400,000 antigen test kits, including some donated from South Korea.

Yangon, which has more than 7 million inhabitants, has reported more than 9,500 cases since Aug. 16, when the country’s first domestic transmission in a month was reported in Rakhine State.

More than 100 medical staff who have helped fight COVID-19 in Yangon are currently infected with coronavirus.

Myanmar’s authorities say they are conducting more than 5,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory tests per day. Results take a few hours, although this can extend to three days if the labs are overloaded.

On Sept. 30, Myanmar conducted its first antigen tests, with more than 6,000 tests at nine hospitals in Yangon.

Dr. Than Naing Soe, the health ministry spokesman, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that Myanmar bought about 400,000 antigen test kits.

An antigen rapid test kit costs US$5 (6,500 kyats) compared with about 200,000 kyats ($153) for the PCR test.

Dr. Than Naing Soe said the antigen results are available in 30 minutes while PCR results can take up to three days when the labs are overloaded.

The antigen tests will be used on medical staff, patients under investigation, in urgent medical need and those who have had contact with a known COVID-19 carrier.

Dr. Than Naing Soe said the antigen tests will speed up the transferring of patients to COVID-19 centers, freeing up hospital beds.

Yangon’s hospitals are currently crowded with people awaiting test results.

Professor Zaw Wai Soe, vice-chairman of Yangon’s COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment coordinating committee, told The Irrawaddy: “The antigen kits are fast so we can make a decision much more quickly. This is an advantage for us.

“The more we can test, the more we can contain the virus.”

He said the use of antigen tests will increase in Yangon’s hospitals after the results have been reviewed.

Yangon Region has up to 8,000 hospital beds available and 1,500 more beds are being prepared.

Around 800 new COVID-19 cases are being reported each day in the country.

On Thursday, Myanmar reported 13,373 COVID-19 cases, including 310 deaths and 3,755 recoveries.

In Asean, Myanmar is fourth in terms of COVID-19 cases after overtaking the 11,484 cases reported in Malaysia and behind the Philippines with more than 314,000 cases, Indonesia with more than 291,000 cases and Singapore with more than 57,786 cases.

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