Cut. Coronavirus. Chaos.
Myanmar is grappling with all three simultaneously, Reuters reported. The Southeast Asian country of 54 million people has been in political turmoil for months, complicating its response to the pandemic and collapsing the healthcare system.
This week, Myanmar’s seven-day per capita death rate hit 6.29 deaths per million people, more than twice the per capita death rate in India at the height of its crisis in May, the AP reported.
Myanmar’s COVID-19 outbreaks have reached a critical point. Half of the country’s population could be infected within two weeks, according to some estimates, according to Al Jazeera. But virus outbreaks would not stop at Myanmar’s borders.
Bordering five nations, Myanmar could become a “super-spreader” state, according to The Guardian.
What is happening with the COVID-19 outbreaks in Myanmar?
Myanmar is currently experiencing its worst coronavirus wave to date, Deseret News reported. Official numbers have shown a sharp increase since June, but experts widely believe those numbers are drastic undercounts, according to the Associated Press.
- In the past two weeks, cases in Myanmar have increased by 105%, Deseret News reported.
- Myanmar reported 5,234 new cases and 342 deaths on Thursday, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health, the AP reported.
- Reports from doctors and funeral services paint an even higher toll, Al Jazeera reported.
Myanmar cases are expected to continue to increase dramatically in the coming weeks. Half of Myanmar’s population – or 27 million people – could be infected with COVID-19 in the next two weeks, according to Al Jazeera, according to a UK estimate.
Why is COVID-19 on the rise in Myanmar?
The situation in Myanmar is near chaos, Reuters reported. The delta variant increases as the healthcare system collapses.
- The junta and the military government have been accused of using the pandemic to “consolidate power and crush the opposition”, according to the PA.
- “The military is militarizing COVID,” said Yanghee Lee, a former Burmese UN human rights expert, according to the AP.
Doctors and other health workers – many of whom participated in protests against the military government – have been attacked or arrested, Al Jazeera reported. The military still has warrants for hundreds of medical professionals.
According to the UN estimate, only 40% of health facilities in Myanmar are still functioning. Out of fear, some doctors have started treating patients in secret, The Guardian reported.
- Myanmar has only vaccinated around 3.2% of its population so far, according to Al Jazeera.
- Vaccination efforts in Myanmar face increasing difficulties, as people may be reluctant to get vaccinated, with the military government trying to vaccinate them or both, according to Reuters.
“Persistent political tensions and deep mistrust between the public and the ruling military junta – which seized power in the February coup – have exacerbated the situation,” Deseret News reported.
What will happen in Burma?
This week, the Burmese military called for international aid for its response to the coronavirus. The UK has also been pushing for the UN to conduct a ceasefire in conflict areas across the country to ensure vaccine delivery, Al Jazeera reported. Neither effort got much traction.
- “Myanmar is becoming a super-diffuser of COVID-19 with these very virulent variants,” said Tom Andrews, United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, by The Guardian.
- “COVID does not respect nationalities or borders or ideologies or political parties,” Andrews said. “He’s an equal opportunity killer.
- “This is a region that is likely to suffer even more as Myanmar has become a super-propagator state,” he said.
About a third of the world’s population live in countries neighboring Myanmar, such as India and China, The Guardian reported.