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Church ready to help Myanmar's coronavirus battle

Cardinal Charles Bo heads national coordination team that prioritizes prevention and awareness campaigns

Church ready to help Myanmar's coronavirus battle

Firefighters clean an area with a hosepipe before disinfecting Shwedagon Pagoda compound  in Yangon as a preventive measure against the coronavirus on March 31. (Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

The Church in Myanmar is playing a key role in the battle against Covid-19 as cases surge in the impoverished and underdeveloped Southeast Asian nation.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon leads the Church’s national coordination team on Covid-19 that prioritizes prevention and awareness campaigns as well as offering quarantine centers in the 16 dioceses across the country in collaboration with public health departments.

The team, which was established in Yangon on March 30, consists of bishops from Caritas Myanmar, the healthcare commission, Catholic doctors and members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar (CBCM).

It will carry out awareness campaigns via Radio Veritas Asia and the Facebook page of the social communications office.

Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho, head of the CBCM’s healthcare commission, said it has discussed preparations on how the Church will contribute to fighting Covid-19. “The government is trying hard to contain the coronavirus pandemic and we will also try the best we can,” he said.

Bishops have been urged to provide quarantine centers in their dioceses that are near government-run hospitals.

“As the world including Myanmar grapples with containing the coronavirus, we all need to join hands in fighting Covid-19,” Bishop Pyone Cho told UCA News.

Since last week, 16 dioceses have suspended daily and Sunday Masses and other liturgical ceremonies. Catholics have been urged to take part in online Sunday and Holy Week ceremonies from home.

The Islamic Religious Council of Myanmar last week offered to turn mosques and religious schools into quarantine sites, while some Buddhist monasteries have already done so.

First coronavirus death

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On March 31, the health ministry reported 15 Covid-19 cases just a week after the country’s first two cases were confirmed. A 69-year-old cancer patient who was among the 15 coronavirus patients died at a hospital in Yangon.

The foreign ministry announced on March 30 that those who enter Myanmar through border points will no longer be allowed to go to their homes directly and will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine at government-designated facilities.

It also requested those who intend to return to Myanmar through border points to wait for two weeks and enter the country after April 15 as the government is in the process of expanding quarantine facilities.

Authorities have been preparing quarantine facilities across the country as thousands of migrant workers from Thailand head home through border gates.

The health ministry has warned the country is at very high risk of “a major outbreak” as many migrants return from the neighboring country.

More than 23,000 people returned from Thailand via Myawaddy in Karen state on March 28-29, according to health ministry data.

In a televised address on March 31, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi informed the public that in the interest of the nation, community quarantine may be carried out in some regions.

“If each of us works with a full sense of duty to stop the spread of Covid-19, we will be able to overcome this challenge,” Suu Kyi said.

More than 859,000 cases have been reported worldwide with the death toll hitting 42,334, according to the latest data.

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