Fear COVID-19 backslide grips Myanmar after new domestic case reported

Photo: Min Ye Kyaw
Photo: Min Ye Kyaw

A single reported case of local transmission of the coronavirus, the first in weeks, raised public alarm that Myanmar’s pandemic progress could face a setback.

The nation’s 375th patient, a 26 year-old woman from Yangon’s Danya Waddy ward who works at a local bank in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, had no history of travel abroad before health officials announced her illness Sunday. That raised fears a return of the virus could wreck havoc just as Myanmar is getting back to business.

In recent weeks, restrictions lifted been and travel has resumed throughout the country. Restaurants, bars, clubs and attractions – temples excluded – have reopened under new rules and, most of all, Yangon’s nightlife has returned to a new pandemic normal.

“It’s only been a few months that curfews are lifted and we are reopened. People will now be more concerned about it, and the curfew will be extended again,” restaurant owner Ko Kaung told Coconuts Yangon with a sigh.

Online, people reacted to the ministry’s announcement with alarm.

“Be careful people, the second wave is coming soon!” one user wrote in reply.

The woman was said to have traveled to Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State on July 31, stayed at the Mya Nan Taw Hotel and visited several local sites. On Aug. 2 she traveled back to Sittwe on a Myanmar National Airlines flight and visited Ponna Island before returning to work the next day. She began experiencing symptoms several days ago.

A page tracking the pandemic in Rakhine state said she did not have any recent contact with foreigners at her bank or during her trip. Kyi Kyi Thar of the Sittwe Health Department told reporters the woman’s family members and colleagues have all been quarantined and tested.

The case has fed rumors that the curfew will be extended till year’s end. Since the pandemic began, Myanmar has counted 375 cases, 329 of which have recovered and six have died.

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