YANGON—A senior Yangon region health official has urged city residents to comply strictly with coronavirus prevention guidelines, saying the Health Ministry would launch an “all-out battle” to contain the spread of the virus in Myanmar’s COVID-19 epicenter.
Myanmar’s commercial hub, with a population of more than 7 million, Yangon has been the center of the country’s second wave of COVID-19 since late last month. Of the 11,631 COVID-19 cases reported in Myanmar as of Tuesday morning, two-thirds are in Yangon. The country’s coronavirus death toll reached 256 on the same day.
Calling the current situation “most critical”, Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, vice chairman of Yangon’s COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Committee, said on Sept. 28 that the government was mobilizing large numbers of medical staff, preparing hospital beds and quarantine centers and procuring medicines.
The Health Ministry expects thousands of COVID-19 patients to be identified daily during its containment operations, as it is now using antigen test kits to test all suspected COVID-19 carriers and those who have had contact with known COVID-19 patients.
“This battle [against COVID-19] is very important for us. Everyone in Yangon has to join the battle. No one can avoid it. Only with everyone’s participation can we achieve victory,” said Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, referring to the need to strictly follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines like handwashing and social distancing.
Since Monday, people in nearly every township of Yangon have been virtually grounded under the government’s stricter stay-at-home orders, which include a ban on travel between townships. Only workers performing essential services like those working in banks and the food industry are free to go out, and only with a government-issued QR pass. All garment factories have been ordered to close until Oct. 7 and other businesses and organizations have been ordered to work from home.
“If we beat it in Yangon within this week, we will be able to contain the spread of COVID-19 for the whole country” Dr. Zaw Wai Soe said.
For the all-out battle, Dr. Zaw Wai Soe said the Yangon government is now preparing more temporary hospitals, as it expects an increase in the number of cases detected because health workers are using rapid testing. As of Monday, Myanmar was testing more than 5,000 swabs per day.
“I hope we can win the battle,” he said.
Currently, Myanmar is fourth among ASEAN countries in terms of number of cases, having recently passed the 11,034 cases in Malaysia. The Philippines has reported more than 307,000 cases, Indonesia more than 279,000 and Singapore more than 57,000.
Cases have been reported in 205 townships across 14 states and regions in the country with only Kayah State reporting no COVID-19 cases.
Rakhine, the second-hardest-hit state, had reported more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases as of Monday.
The Myanmar government announced on Monday that all COVID-19 orders, which had been imposed until Sept. 30, are now extended until Oct. 31.
As part of the COVID-19 guidelines, people are ordered to wear face masks when going outside and gatherings of more than 29 people are prohibited.
The Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications has also extended its ban on international flights until Oct. 31.
International flights, except for relief, cargo and special flights, have been grounded since March 29. Domestic services have been banned since Sept. 11.
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