Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar’s Third COVID-19 Lab Begins Operating in Mandalay

By Zarni Mann 1 June 2020

MANDALAY—The National Health Laboratory’s new lab in Mandalay, which is equipped to perform COVID-19 testing, started operating on Monday.

Located in the heart of the city, the new lab is the first in Upper Myanmar with the ability to test for the coronavirus. The lab has two sets of machines that are capable of doing a total of more than 400 tests a day.

“The lab is fully operating and is currently processing 113 swabs, including those taken from people being quarantined at Zeepingyi Central Institute of Civil Service [CICS], and from persons under investigation [PUIs] at Mandalay General Hospital and Nyaung Oo General Hospital,” Dr. Than Than Myint, section head at the Mandalay Regional Department of Health, told The Irrawaddy.

The result of the swabs—taken from 106 people who returned from Thailand and are being quarantined at Zeepingyi CICS, six PUIs at Mandalay General Hospital and one PUI at Nyaung Oo General Hospital—will be announced Monday evening, together with results from two other labs in Yangon.

According to U Zarni Aung, the regional minister of power, industry and construction, and the chair of Mandalay Region’s Surveillance and Response Team for COVID-19 (SRT), one set of machines was provided by donors from Singapore and the other was donated by China.

The lab will test patients under investigation, suspected patients, staff at quarantine centers and social volunteers from Mandalay and the whole Upper Myanmar region.

U Zarni Aung said having the lab in Mandalay would be hugely beneficial for all of Upper Myanmar and reduce the workload of the two labs in Yangon.

The National Health Laboratory’s new lab in Mandalay, which will serve all of Upper Myanmar, began conducting COVID-19 tests on Monday. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

“Many Myanmar workers and students currently living abroad will be flooding in soon. So, if we can test more suspected cases, it will benefit all of us and offer greater protection,” the minister said.

According to the minister, the lab will be funded from the Union government’s budget, but if there is an emergency, the Mandalay regional government’s emergency budget can offer financial support.

Work on the Mandalay lab began over a month ago. Lab technicians were trained in Yangon. Some special training was provided by health experts from China’s Yunnan province on May 24.

According to the Ministry of Health and Sports, two labs in Yangon, the National Health Laboratory and the Department of Medical Research laboratory, have done over 186,000 tests for COVID-19.

The ministry announced on Sunday that another new lab in Mawlamyine in Mon State is ready to begin testing and will be fully operational in the first week of June. Two more labs in Taunggyi and Lashio in Shan State are also being prepared to test for COVID-19.

As of June 1, Myanmar has reported 228 confirmed COVID-19 cases with six deaths. A total of 138 people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Mandalay has seen three confirmed COVID-19 cases, all of whom had recovered and been discharged from hospitals by early May.

According to the Mandalay regional government, 76 people are currently quarantined in hotels and 332 are being kept in community-designated quarantine facilities. More than 1,600 quarantine centers have been set up across Mandalay Region.

Meanwhile, the Mandalay regional government on Monday lifted bans on passenger buses traveling to and from Mandalay and other states and regions.

All highway buses, including passenger buses, are allowed to resume operations with limited numbers of passengers on board. Hotels, motels, inns and guesthouses are also allowed to reopen after having their preventive measures checked by the Department of Health.

The requirement that all people arriving in Mandalay must undergo 28 days of quarantine has also been lifted, except for those arriving from abroad, from areas under “stay-at-home” orders, or from areas hit hard by COVID-19 such as Insein, Mayangone and Mingalar Taungnyunt townships in Yangon.