A despairing Yangon man mourning a sister he said was turned away by a local hospital last night put a face to the anguish felt across Myanmar as the spiraling pandemic kills loved ones, including an untold number dying due to an oxygen shortage.
Nyo Min Tun late last night took to Facebook in tears to describe taking his sister’s death after she was turned away from a Yangon hospital because it was unable to supply her critically needed oxygen.
“My sister who needed oxygen has just passed away,” he said in the livestream. “I brought her to North Okkalapa General Hospital, but we were turned away due to her low O2 level.”
“It’s too soon for her to be gone,” he added, wailing in grief beside the body of a woman believed to be his sister.
Nyo responded to a message seeking comment with only a crying emoji.
Myanmar’s number of COVID-19 patients exploded this month, and oxygen is in such scarce supply that the junta has ordered troops to guard O2 plants, going so far as to open fire on crowds to keep them away.
The fierce outbreak could not come at a worse time, with health workers on strike and hunted by the military. More than 150 medical professionals have been jailed; many more are on the junta’s wanted list. On top of that, many have taken to the streets in revolt against the military dictatorship, especially in big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay.
On Wednesday, the country recorded 6,094 new COVID-19 cases, making for an official count of over 246,000 since the pandemic began. Another 247 fatalities raised the death toll to 5,814.
But those official numbers are based on figures from the military hospitals and are believed to be significant undercounts.
Yangon volunteer groups told Democratic Voice of Burma on Tuesday that more than 1,300 bodies were cremated in four different local cemeteries that day. Most of the patients had died due to lack of oxygen, they added.
Nyo Min Tun began streaming just over two hours after announcing that they were taking his sister in search of help after her blood oxygen level fell dangerously low.
“She was just getting what she needed,” he said. “She loved me so much, but now she’s left me.”
His widely watched video drew an outpouring of sympathy.
“My deepest condolences to you,” Facebooker Ko Naing Gyi wrote. “We feel the same way.”
Ed. note: Although we normally do not include images of the deceased, we felt it important to communicate the reality taking hold as the pandemic overwhelms fragile health systems.