COVID-19 public health measures not functioning under military junta

June 26, 2021

HURFOM: Mon State has been experiencing an increase of COVID-19 cases. As of June 23 there have been more than 200 cases reported.

Providing care to patients afflicted with the virus has become increasingly challenging due an inadequate number of healthcare staff.

“Now there are no doctors and assistants in hospitals, so there is no health service for the people. If the COVID-19 infection rate increases, people will be helpless,” said a resident from Ye Township.

An official with the Mon State Public Health Department indicated that they would try their best to respond but needed more help from health officials.

“We’ve tried our best with the current health staff and we also cooperate with the medical team in Ten Township Ward of the Mawlamyine University. It’s okay now but if the number of patients increases, we will need help from health officials and staff in Mawlamyine. I know they’re willing to help us,” said an official from the Mon State Public Health Department.

Most  health officials and staff have refused to go to their workplaces, due to the military coup, though many continue to provide assistance at monasteries. However, the impact has left public hospitals short staffed.

“Some health staff came back to the workplace but not enough. The public health departments have prepared centers for COVID-19 patients. We could do more before as we had enough volunteers and staff. If we want to restore the health system like before, we have to convince the health officials and staff to come back to their workplaces,” said an official from an emergency rescue team in Mawlamyine.

The military junta has tried to present to the world that they are in control and are providing public health control measures. However, Reuters News agency reported that  in mid June they arrested the former head of Myanmar Covid-19 immunization program, Htar Htar Lin under dubious charges of high treason for allegedly colluding with opponents of the military. 

Myanmar’s healthcare system and coronavirus prevention measures have collapsed since the army seized power on Feb. 1 and overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose government had successfully stopped two waves of the virus.

The Mawlamyine General Hospital is accepting and treating  COVID-19 patients. Isolation Ward #1 has about 40 critically-ill patients and Ward #3 has 220 patients.

“We’ve advocated for people on our website to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus.. We’ve also done a “Mask Campaign” in Mawlamyine. We’ve patrolled wards and villages providing stickers promoting  “COVID-19 awareness”, said the emergency team official.

Members of the public dispute this claim, saying there has been no education about “COVID-19 awareness” on the ground, and people are not following the public health rules and regulations.

“Now, people don’t fear the COVID-19. No one follows health measures. They don’t wear masks when going outside. They don’t wash their hands. There is no enforcement of wearing masks and washing hands in restaurants and markets,” said a Ye resident.

In Thanbyuzayat, as of June 22, there were more than 60 COVID-19 cases, and parents are not sending their children to schools as they are afraid of the risk of  infection.

“The political condition is bad and the spread of the COVID-19 is also high in Thanbyuzayat. I’m afraid my child will be infected. So I don’t send them to school,” said one parent from Thanbyuzayat.

To stop the third wave of the COVID-19, people must follow public health rules and regulations exactly.  

“Consequences are worse than the disease. So to avoid the impacts of the COVID-19, every individual must exercise protections.. Prevention is the best option. Please wear masks when going outside and avoid crowds. If the infection rate declines, restrictions will be loosened and making a livelihood will be possible. That’s why I want people to follow public health measures,” said a rescue team member.

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