Wednesday, January 19

Myanmar could become a “super spreader” state for Covid, says a UN expert | Myanmar

Myanmar is at risk of becoming a super-spreading Covid state fueling outbreaks across the region, the UN special rapporteur for the country warned as he urged the security council to call for a ceasefire.

The Southeast Asian country is facing its most severe outbreak yet, in addition to a deep political and economic crisis sparked by the February military coup. Its vaccination program has stalled, tests have collapsed, and government hospitals are barely functioning.

Doctors, who have been at the forefront of a strike against the junta and refuse to work in state hospitals, have been forced to treat patients in secret because they face the constant threat of military violence or arrest.

The exact number of cases and deaths in Myanmar was unclear, Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said in an interview with The Guardian. Attacks on journalists and doctors have made it difficult to obtain accurate information about the crisis.

“We know that this is a peak to the upside. It’s a very fast increase, alarmingly fast, ”Andrews said.

According to the military-controlled ministry of health and sports, 4,629 people have died from Covid since June 1. The numbers are believed to be underestimated. The military-controlled media announced Tuesday that 10 new crematoria would be built in cemeteries in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, to deal with the fatalities. Irrawaddy News Site, an independent media, reported.

“In Yangon, it is common to see three types of lines,” Andrews added. “One before the ATMs, one for the oxygen supply, which is very dangerous because Myanmar forces are literally shooting people for lining up for oxygen, and the third is the lines at crematoria and morgues.” .

There is a severe shortage of oxygen, medical equipment and medicines in cities across the country. Outside homes, people have hung yellow and white flags to indicate they need food or medicine, while social media has been inundated with pleas for help and death notices.

The army has been accused of seizing oxygen supplies. He has ordered suppliers not to sell to the public, claiming that people are hoarding tanks.

Andrews said international governments, including Myanmar’s neighbors, must act quickly or they would see the consequences of an uncontrolled outbreak at their borders.

“Myanmar is becoming a Covid-19 super-spreader with these very virulent variants: Delta and other forms of the disease, [which are] extremely dangerous, extremely lethal, extremely contagious… This is very, very dangerous for all kinds of reasons, ”Andrews said.

“It is just a fact that Covid does not respect nationalities, borders, ideologies or political parties. He’s an equal opportunity killer. This is a region that is susceptible to even greater suffering as a result of Myanmar becoming a super-spreading state. “

About a third of the world’s population lives in countries neighboring Myanmar, he added. This includes China, which, along with Russia, has blocked previous attempts by the security council to pressure the Myanmar military.

In February, the security council passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire in all conflict states so that healthcare workers could safely provide Covid vaccines. Andrews said the resolution should now be reaffirmed regarding the Myanmar crisis. This could help pave the way for international agencies to provide further assistance.

On Wednesday, the military-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar reported that the chief of the board, Min Aung Hlaing, had addressed a meeting “to strengthen cooperation with the international community, including ASEAN. [Association of South-east Asian Nations] and friendly countries in the prevention, control and treatment of Covid-19 ”. The details of the cooperation are unclear.

Junta forces have participated in at least 260 attacks on medical personnel and facilities, killing at least 18 people, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The army is holding at least 67 health workers and has issued arrest warrants for another 600 doctors.

Last week, military officers allegedly posed as Covid patients in need of treatment to catch medical volunteers in Yangon. Later, three doctors who came to help were arrested, according to a report by the independent media. Myanmar now.

In total, at least 5,630 people are held in detention centers, including the Insein Prison in Yangon, where the virus has spread. U Nyan Win, who previously served as Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer, and who was a high-ranking member of her National League for Democracy party, died of Covid after becoming infected in jail, it was confirmed last week.

At least 931 people, protesters, politicians and bystanders, have been killed by the army since February.

There is significant evidence that crimes against humanity are unfolding in Myanmar, Andrews said. “This is not a wandering commander here or there doing horrible things, this is very systematic, very clear… The junta goes to state television and tells people not to go out on the streets. [to protest] or they’ll shoot you in the head. And then all of a sudden all these people get shot in the head. “

Andrews said the need for international action was more urgent than ever. “The people of Myanmar are losing hope that the international community will care about what is happening in Myanmar,” he said.

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