Updated: July 15, 2021 07:03 AM GMT
People wait to fill oxygen canisters outside a factory in Mandalay amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. (Photo: AFP)
The Myanmar Church has filled a gap in the response to the worsening Covid-19 crisis after the contagion claimed the lives of priests and pastors as well as laypeople.
Kalay Diocese has established an emergency response committee to provide much-needed oxygen tanks, medical help and preventive measures. The committee has set up a clinic which provides medical help to the public, including Covid tests.
The diocese, which covers Sagaing and northern Chin state bordering India, is one of the hardest-hit regions in the country following the third wave that erupted in early May.
Father Dominic Savio Thang Suan Langh, parish priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kalay town, said it is a very worrying situation as cases have surged and there is a desperate need of oxygen for Covid patients amid an inadequate healthcare system.
He said people wait in long queues to get oxygen from early morning but the demand is beyond the limited capacity of what the providers including charitable groups have.
“People are worrying about their daily livelihood, getting infected with the deadly disease and the urgent need for oxygen,” Father Thang Suan told UCA News.
Even if we have the financial resources, we can’t buy them to meet the growing need for oxygen
The Church’s youth commission is tasked with renting oxygen cylinders for those most in need, while it has ordered more oxygen cylinders from Yangon.
The priest said the Church wants to purchase more oxygen cylinders but even in major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay stocks are running out.
“Even if we have the financial resources, we can’t buy them to meet the growing need for oxygen,” he added.
Catholic youth volunteers have also played a vital role in helping funeral services including burials at cemeteries, according to the priest.
Three priests from Kalay Diocese died within a week in June and at least six more priests are infected with the virus. And a priest and a nun in Kalay town who were also infected with the disease are on oxygen.
The three priests are among 60 pastors from various churches who died of Covid-19 in Sagaing region and Chin state from January to the first week of July.
About 300 Christians including at least 14 Catholic laypeople from Kalay township succumbed to Covid-19 within the last month, according to Catholic sources.
At least 600 people died of Covid-19 in Kalay township between June and last week amid a lack of oxygen tanks, a healthcare service near to collapse and a crackdown on health workers and volunteers by the military, according to aid groups.
Photographs on social media showed long queues of residents in Yangon, Mandalay and Kalay trying to refill oxygen cylinders.
The healthcare system and medical services have all but fallen to the ground in a shambles due to the military’s persecution and terrorism against the people
Some people risked their lives merely by going out at night to search for oxygen for their loved ones when a curfew has been imposed in several cities.
Myanmar’s health system had struggled to contain the deadly virus even before the Feb. 1 coup which toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who recently raised grave concerns about the worsening coronavirus situation through her lawyers.
Thousands of doctors, volunteers and civil servants have joined a mass civil disobedience campaign to oppose the military regime.
“The healthcare system and medical services have all but fallen to the ground in a shambles due to the military’s persecution and terrorism against the people,” said Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the National Unity Government established by ousted lawmakers.
On July 14, Myanmar recorded 4,047 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 109 deaths, bringing total infections to 201,274 and the death toll to 4,036.