Myanmar & COVID-19

Volunteers, Govt Staff Fighting COVID-19 in Myanmar Face Discrimination

By Moe Moe 2 April 2020

NAYPYITAW—People quarantine for COVID-19 in Myanmar, as well as volunteers and civil servants who provide them with assistance, are facing discrimination as colleagues and members of the public avoid them and treat them with trepidation.

Upper House lawmaker U Maung Maung Swe, who is leading volunteers to support the COVID-19 response in Naypyitaw, said people in quarantine after returning from abroad and government staff assigned to quarantine facilities are experiencing discrimination.

“Although members of the public should support them, in fact the reverse is true. People misunderstand what quarantine is. The health knowledge of the public is limited. They should know that people who are quarantined are not [COVID-19] patients, not even suspected patients,” he said.

According to U Maung Maung Swe, some government staff have discriminated against their colleagues who have worked at quarantine facilities.

“I am afraid. Of course I have concerns as [some colleagues] have been to quarantine facilities,” said U Win Min Tun, a government employee from Naypyitaw.

State health professionals, General Administration Department officials, members of the Myanmar Police Force and volunteers have all been assigned to monitor returnees at quarantine facilities in Naypyitaw.

“Some view us as carriers of the disease. But in fact, we have to keep ourselves safe while helping them. Health workers conduct health checks on us, including temperature screenings,” U Phone Mo, a volunteer participating in the COVID-19 response in Naypyitaw told The Irrawaddy.

U Maung Maung Swe said that faced with the risk of such a large loss of life, people have lost trust in each other.

“This is the wrong attitude, society should not have such an attitude,” U Maung Maung Swe said.

The General Administration Department has said that the public should not discriminate against those in quarantine, according to U Thaik Wai Phyo, administrator for Naypyitaw’s Pyinmana Township.

“Not all the people in quarantine are patients. We have instructed the public not to discriminate against them and to treat them as normal people. We have instructed them not to avoid talking or going near them,” he said.

Nearly 700 people who have returned from overseas are being kept in quarantine at hospitals in Naypyitaw’s Zayarthiri, Pobbathiri, Ottarathiri and Dekkhinathiri townships and at Naypyitaw Development Committee Guesthouse.

According to the Ministry of Health and Sports, Myanmar has had 16 COVID-19 cases so far. One COVID-19 patient, who also suffered from cancer, has died.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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