School close amid Myanmar’s third COVID wave as oxygen supplies run low

A COVID-positive patient with an oxygen cylinder outside of Yangon General Hospital, Yangon, Myanmar. (Via Mratt Kyaw Thu)
A COVID-positive patient with an oxygen cylinder outside of Yangon General Hospital, Yangon, Myanmar. (Via Mratt Kyaw Thu)

The military junta-controlled Health Care Ministry announced on Thursday school closures nationwide for two weeks due to Myanmar’s worsening third COVID-19 wave.

COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Myanmar where a collapsed healthcare system, continued assaults on healthcare workers, and an oxygen shortage threaten to deepen what the UN called a “multi-dimensional human rights crisis.”

Pictures of citizens lining up to refill oxygen tanks surfaced on social media with reports of depleting oxygen supplies across the country, even in Myanmar’s cities. 

Local media is also reporting much higher numbers of deaths compared to official counts from the State Administrative Council’s healthcare ministry. In Sagaing State, local charity groups estimate that over 200 died in the first week of July while state media reported only six deaths.

Myanmar citizens have taken to social media to plead for oxygen supplies for their loved ones with many pleading “they just want to live.”

Myanmar was one of the first Southeast Asian nations to begin vaccinating their healthcare workers in January 2020 with a robust public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has caught countries with better healthcare systems off guard.

Since Feb. 1, Myanmar security forces have launched all out assaults on the country’s healthcare workers and frontline medics. The Southeast Asian country’s healthcare system, one of the least developed in the world, stopped functioning after striking healthcare workers walked out of their jobs to protest the military coup in the nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement. 

Coconuts Yangon reported the explosive potential mix of COVID-19 and the mass detention of democracy activists who were held in Myanmar’s notoriously overcrowded prisons. Myanmar’s Insein prison has since gone into lockdown to contain the spread of the virus and suspended special court hearings in a tribunal set up inside the prison. BBC Burmese reported that 40 prisoners have tested positive in Insein Prison, according to a prison official.

Zayar Lwin, an activist and former political prisoner, told Reuters that many were sick inside Insein prison and some died early on in the pandemic.

Stay at home orders have been issued in some of Yangon’s neighborhoods as well as in Chin and Sagaing state. Today, China is closing its southwestern border with Myanmar in an effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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