Underreported major public health crisis . . .
The COVID-19 situation in Myanmar grows dire and threatens to further deteriorate, as its weak health system is overwhelmed with cases. According to the World Health Organization, Myanmar has reported over 5,000 daily new cases this week and a test positivity rate of 37 per cent. The country is also reporting 5,800 cumulative deaths, a number which, with over 200 deaths per day, is drastically climbing. Reporting today from the European Emergency Response and Coordination Centre states that “the COVID-19 situation in Myanmar is likely the worst in Southeast Asia.” However, the true magnitude of the health crisis is obscured by the underreporting of both case numbers and deaths, and also by the general state of unrest and violence in the country.
Doctors arrested despite overwhelmed hospitals . . .
Myanmar’s COVID-19 situation took a disastrous turn after the February 1 military coup. The ensuing social and political crises, economic downturn, and international isolation overshadowed the collapse of the country’s public health and welfare systems. Many doctors and medical professionals have refused to work under a military dictatorship and have played a prominent role in the anti-junta civil disobedience movement. Advocates accuse the junta of gross pandemic mismanagement in its ineffective response to the latest infection wave. While the military has seized medical equipment, medicines, and oxygen for its own use, it has simultaneously arrested several doctors and medical staff actively treating COVID-19 patients at home even while state-run hospitals are overrun.
A plea for international aid and intervention . . .
Observers such as the independent Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) have stated that the country is in critical need of humanitarian intervention. SAC-M has proposed that such an intervention needs to be mandated by the UN Security Council as a joint effort by ASEAN, especially since runaway infection in Myanmar poses a regional threat. However, it is likely that the military will be a major obstacle to the distribution of any aid, as recent reports claim that officials have instructed aid agencies like UNHCR to only distribute aid materials like medicines and mosquito nets within regime-controlled camps.
- Council on Foreign Relations: Myanmar collapses into a COVID-19 nightmare
- Myanmar Now: Only a ‘massive’ humanitarian intervention can curb Myanmar’s Covid-19 ‘disaster’, experts say
- Reuters: Myanmar military accused of arresting doctors while COVID-19 infections rise