Myanmar's COVID-19 cases hit highest since coup

Myanmar's COVID-19 cases hit highest since coup

FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 patients at the hospital in Cikha
FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients receive treatment at the hospital in Cikha, Myanmar, May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

Myanmar's junta-controlled health ministry reported 595 cases of COVID-19 on Monday (Jun 21) as daily infections hit the highest since the army seized power in a coup that prompted many medical workers to abandon the health service and anti-coronavirus programme.

Reported infections have jumped this month, raising concerns of a much bigger wave. Many of the new infections have been reported from near the border with India.

Coronavirus testing collapsed after the coup on Feb 1 as health workers joined the so-called Civil Disobedience Movement to protest against the ousting of elected ruler Aung San Suu Kyi, whose government had brought two waves of infection under control.

Testing in the past week averaged a little more than 4,000 a day compared to well more than 17,000 a day in the week before the coup.

The rate of positive tests rose to nearly 12 per cent on Monday - a much higher rate than before the coup - and close to that near the last big peak in infections in November 2020.

Reuters was unable to reach the health ministry for further comment.

READ: Former head of Myanmar's COVID-19 vaccination programme arrested

International organisations such as the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have warned of the growing outbreak.

"We at IFRC continue to support Myanmar Red Cross to scale up prevention actions," Joy Singhal, the head of the IFRC delegation in Myanmar, wrote on Twitter.

Myanmar's immunisation campaign slowed sharply after the coup, with some people refusing vaccinations by junta-controlled authorities as a show of defiance.

The former head of the vaccination programme, Htar Htar Lin, was arrested on Jun 10 and accused of working with an underground National Unity Government (NUG) set up by the junta's opponents. Dozens more doctors have been detained.

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Source: Reuters/jt