YANGON: Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has warned of more COVID-19 cases in the country, a week after millions of voters went to the polls.
Despite safety protocols that were put in place for the Nov 8 general election, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi said a rise in infection rates would be inevitable.
"At this time, we need to be fully aware of the fact that there were gatherings during the election period," she said on Monday (Nov 17) night in a regular televised address.
"The people are well aware of this fact. Therefore, because there were gatherings, the infection rate is bound to go up."
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi added the authorities found that infections had spread in other areas including Ayeyawady, and Bago in central Myanmar, as well as Mandalay -Myanmar’s second-largest city.
SUPPORTERS GATHER DESPITE VIRUS THREAT
On the night of the election, around 500 National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters gathered outside the party’s headquarters in Yangon. Men, women and children waved flags, sang and danced on the streets in anticipation of an NLD win.
The nightly gatherings went on for the next two nights. Crowds swelled, especially when unofficial results began to reveal NLD was on track for a big victory.
Despite the risks, supporters CNA spoke to were undeterred.
"I am here because Aunty Suu (Aung San Suu Kyi) has won and I am so happy that I can’t think about COVID-19," said Daw Moe, an NLD supporter.
"I am somewhat worried about my health, but that’s another story. For now, I’m going to show my support to Mother Suu," said fellow supporter Myat Thandar Aung.
POST-ELECTION CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS
While Ms Aung San Suu Kyi had acknowledged supporters’ enthusiasm, she and the NLD cautioned people against breaking COVID-19 rules - warnings echoed by Myanmar's health ministry last week.
Although large-scale celebrations have since tapered off, the spread of COVID-19 has not.
The Myanmar Times reported on Monday that six staff members from Mandalay’s election office staff tested positive for the virus.
One of them had gone door-to-door a day before the election to finalise a voter’s list. The staff member was later found to be COVID-19 positive.
Further down south from Mandalay in Bago, a foreign election observer who had visited polling stations there also tested positive.
The Filipino observer, from the Asian Network For Free Elections, and her translator were tested after returning to Yangon from their assignment.
While Ms Aung San Suu Suu Kyi warned of a spike in infection rates in her Monday night address, she said new cases were at the moment "staying steady at about 1,000 daily".
HARD AND SOFT APPROACHES
Meanwhile, the authorities are looking at more creative ways to manage the pandemic.
It will expand its network and tap on other resources including the private healthcare sector.
About a quarter of the roughly 230 private hospitals in Myanmar are finalising preparations before they open their doors to COVID-19 patients.
Health authorities have also hinted at the use of community patrols to enforce safe-distancing rules.
Authorities have also employed softer approaches to managing the pandemic.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday mooted the idea of online dance competitions. The health ministry has been broadcasting dance programmes in a bid to keep people indoors and active.
And to encourage people to wear face masks, authorities havealso planned mask making competitions, with the State Counsellor herself shown sewing her own mask.