YANGON—Myanmar’s commercial hub, Yangon, is now able to provide sufficient health care to the region’s thousands of COVID-19 patients—and the many more who test positive each day—as more than 10,000 newly added hospitals beds are ready, according to senior regional health officials.
As of Thursday morning, Myanmar had reported a total of 21,433 COVID-19 cases including 510 fatalities and 6,084 recoveries.
Myanmar has been reporting around 1,000 new COVID-19 cases and dozens of deaths per day since last Tuesday, when the country improved its testing capability. The number of COVID-19 tests administered each day has risen from 5,000 to more than 10,000 since the introduction of antigen rapid test kits.
A total of 1,400 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Wednesday and 1,252 cases were reported on Tuesday.
Recently, Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial hub with a population of more than 7 million, has been reporting around 75 percent of the country’s total daily COVID-19 cases, according to the World Health Organization’s latest weekly report released on Monday.
As of noon Wednesday, hardest-hit Yangon had reported more than 16,000 cases, while the country’s second hardest-hit location, Rakhine State, had reported more than 1,600.
Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the Health Ministry’s Emerging Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that COVID-19 cases are soaring in Yangon because it is the country’s commercial capital with a high population density and crowded public transportation.
Another reason, she said, was that many Yangon residents were still not following COVID-19 prevention guidelines, while some local authorities had failed to properly enforce the rules.
“The soaring number of cases is not the main worry. Our main concern is that COVID-19 patients are arriving [at hospitals] too late to be cured. And we are worried about the large number of contact persons that such patients have,” Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi said.
She said that increased testing means a larger number of cases are detected early, which is important for curbing the spread of the virus in the community.
Professor Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, vice chairman of Yangon’s Committee on the Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the region’s health-care facilities now have sufficient capacity to handle the daily influx of COVID-19 patients.
Earlier, Yangon Region health officials were struggling to find enough hospital beds for the increasing number of patients, he said.
In order to curb the rapid spread of the virus in the city, Yangon has imposed stay-at-home orders on all residents since Sept. 21, while employees of all businesses and organizations have been ordered to work from home.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Myanmar’s Health Ministry extended its Sept. 24 closure order for all garment factories until Oct. 21. It had been due to expire on Wednesday.
“During the past two weeks, we have managed contact tracing well and secured sufficient treatment capacity. The containment operations are improving. In another [positive] development, the increase in new cases has not been as drastic as we first predicted,” said Prof. Dr. Zaw Wai Soe.
Previously, Yangon health authorities were concerned that the number of cases was rising so rapidly there would be no way to control it.
Asked to assess the COVID-19 containment efforts in Yangon between Sept. 24 and Oct. 7, Prof. Dr. Zaw Wai Soe said, “We didn’t lose the fight, though we haven’t yet won.”
Earlier, when it appeared that they would not be able to produce sufficient hospital beds, Yangon health officials said they were considering switching to a community containment strategy, in which COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms would be told to stay at home.
However, Yangon now has more than 10,000 hospital beds, including more than 900 in intensive care units, prepared for incoming COVID-19 patients.
As of Wednesday, more than 7,000 COVID-19 patients were being treated at Yangon’s hospitals, while several hundred recovered patients were being discharged each day.
Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar is fourth in terms of COVID-19 cases behind the Philippines with more than 330,000 cases, Indonesia (more than 316,000) and Singapore (more than 57,800).
In recent days, Myanmar has been reporting between a dozen and more than three dozen COVID-19 deaths per day.
Myanmar is now third in ASEAN in terms of COVID-19 deaths, behind Indonesia with more than 11,400 deaths and the Philippines with more than 5,900.
The Health Ministry’s Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi said 66 percent of the country’s total COVID-19 deaths involved patients above 60 years of age. The elderly and those with underlying diseases are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.
Also, 95 percent of the country’s total COVID-19 deaths have involved patients with underlying diseases, according to Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi.
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