Myanmar & COVID-19

Suu Kyi Urges COVID-19 Suspects from Myanmar's Rakhine to Come Forward as Cases Soar

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 7 September 2020

YANGON – Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has warned on Monday that anyone who has not reported to a health care center after returning from Rakhine State will face legal action as more than 2,000 returnees have failed to do so.

She held a video conference with U Nyi Tun of Naypyitaw’s council, Dr. Chit Ko Han, the deputy director of Yangon Public Health Department, and U Maung Maung Aye of the civil society organization We Love Yangon.

Myanmar’s COVID-19 cases reached 1,464 – with eight deaths and 385 recoveries – on Monday morning.

Rakhine State has reported 540 COVID-19 cases since Aug. 16.

Myanmar saw its first domestic transmission in a month with a 26-year-old female bank employee in the Rakhine capital, Sittwe, on Aug. 16. Prior to that case, Myanmar’s previous transmission was reported on July 16.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports has imposed a partial lockdown on Rakhine State, restricting residents’ movements.

Anyone returning from Rakhine State was ordered to submit to quarantine and undergo a COVID-19 test.

The government published more than 5,000 names of those who flew to Yangon from Rakhine after Aug. 10, instructing them to report to the authorities and to a health clinic to be quarantined and for a COVID-19 test.

Around half of the 5,000 have failed to contact the authorities.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that the government will publish the names and addresses of those failing to report.

“We will give them a few days to report and then we take action against those failing to come forward,” the State Counselor said.

“The action is not a punishment, it is a warning. If we don’t take action, Yangon could face a more rapid spread of coronavirus.”

Dr. Chit Ko Han said quarantine accommodation had been provided in Yangon for more than 6,000 people, including for returnees from Rakhine State, returnees from other countries, including migrant workers, and for those who have a contact history with a COVID-19 patient.

The State Counselor also said the authorities were considering reducing the quarantine period from 21 days to 14 days to relax the burden on quarantine centers.

She also said businesses were struggling with the impact of the pandemic at the past five months and are incapable of donating to the country’s COVID-19 fund.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi agreed to the suggestion from U Maung Maung Aye to put two signed masks made by the State Counselor up for auction to boost COVID-19 funds.

On Saturday, a handwritten poem by the State Counselor was sold at auction for 240 million kyats (US$180,110). The proceeds will go towards the National League for Democracy’s campaign for the Nov. 8 general election.

On Sept. 2, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi warned that anyone failing to follow COVID-19 instructions could face lawsuits under the Natural Disaster Management Law, instead of the Communicable Disease Law.

The Communicable Disease Law carries fines of just 5,000 kyats (US$3.8), while the natural disaster law threatens prison terms of up to one year.

As of Monday morning, Yangon, the second hardest-hit city in the country, has reported 403 COVID-19 cases since Aug. 19 after returnees from Rakhine State tested positive.

COVID-19 cases have been reported in Naypyitaw, Bago, Ayeyarwady, Tanintharyi, Magwe, Mandalay and Yangon regions and Mon, Shan, Kachin, Rakhine, Chin and Karen states.

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