Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar’s Rakhine State Under Partial Lockdown Amid COVID-19 Surge

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 27 August 2020

Yangon – Myanmar has imposed a partial lockdown on Rakhine State’s more than 3 million inhabitants after nearly 100 COVID-19 cases were reported within 12 hours earlier this week.

As of Thursday morning, Myanmar has reported 586 COVID-19 cases, including six deaths and 345 recoveries.

Myanmar reported 193 COVID-19 transmissions between Aug. 16 and Aug. 27 with most of the cases in Rakhine State. The first domestically transmitted case in a month on Aug. 16 was a 26-year-old female employee at the CB Bank in the state capital, Sittwe.

The city has been under partial lockdown —urging people to stay at home while allowing essential businesses to open — since Aug. 20 after six more cases were reported within four days.

On Wednesday, after the detection of nearly 100 positive cases overnight in 10 townships in Rakhine State, the government instructed Rakhine’s population to stay at home to curb the spread of coronavirus.

People are also instructed not to leave their townships or the state unless in an emergency.

The union government promised to provide state-wide health care and food supplies to the whole state if needed, while the state government says it is planning to provide financial assistance to those living hand to mouth.

The union government urged anyone who left the state since Aug. 10 to report to their nearest health care center and the authorities.

They will be quarantined at community-based quarantine centers for 21 days with COVID-19 tests, the government statement said.

It threatened those violating COVID-19 restrictions with prosecution. Most of Sittwe’s shops, teashops and restaurants, except firms selling essential food and goods, have closed and people are only leaving their homes when necessary, according to residents.

“Most people are staying at home as they are afraid of coronavirus. I’m pleased people are frightened. They need to be afraid of COVID-19 at least for the next three weeks,” said U Tun Hlaing of Sittwe told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

U Maung Than Myint of Sittwe – where most COVID-19 cases have been reported – told The Irrawaddy that his family’s fishery and textile business had stopped operations since their street and market had closed.

“We are facing losses as we cannot conduct any business. But the important thing is that people across the state are healthy” said U Maung Than Myint.

Ko Nay Myo Tun, founder of the Minbya Youth Network in Rakhine’s Minbya Township, said the closure of the township market would prevent many people from making a living.

U Win Myint, the state municipal minister, said residents can ask for food supplies from the state government.

“People from all townships, including those in camps for IDP [internally displaced people], can ask us for food supplies and masks from their administrators. We are ready to supply them,” said U Win Myint.

Since Aug. 23, the government in Naypyitaw has sent 49 medical volunteers, including doctors and nurses, to Sittwe General Hospital where most of the COVID-19 patients are being treated.

According to Dr. Win Myat Aye, the union minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, 186 more volunteers, including members of civil society organizations from across the country, will be sent to Rakhine State to help tackle COVID-19.

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