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Myanmar faces Covid-19 spread after election

Cases rise as NLD victory celebrations flout health restrictions to contain the coronavirus

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Myanmar faces Covid-19 spread after election

Supporters of the National League for Democracy celebrate with a cut-out figure of Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on Nov. 10. (Photo: AFP)

Undeterred by the Covid-19 outbreak, hundreds of people took to the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and elsewhere to celebrate the resounding victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in the Nov. 8 election.

Waving the party’s red flags and singing songs joined by the public including the elderly and children, throngs of supporters defied restrictions imposed by health officials to contain the coronavirus.

People who took part in the celebrations on Nov. 8-9 told media that they were aware of the risks but wanted to mark the victory of “Our Mother” — the term used by most people for Suu Kyi.

“I hope that if people are infected following the celebrations, Our Mother will help cure them,” said a man wearing a face mask who took part in the victory rallies.

Health officials raised concerns that Covid-19 cases could surge following the large gatherings while the country is reeling from second wave of the contagion.

The Ministry of Health issued an order banning gatherings of more than 30 people and will take action against those who flout the regulation.

Three supporters who joined the NLD victory celebrations tested positive on Nov. 9, according to the media.

More reports about election-related cases emerged including six staff from Mandalay’s election office, the Filipino election observer and her translator and several teachers in Bago and Mandalay regions who worked at polling stations.

Need to be fully aware

State Counselor Suu Kyi has warned of rising cases in the country in the post-election era.

“At this time, we need to be fully aware of the fact that there were gatherings during the election period. Therefore, because there were gatherings, the infection rate is bound to go up,” she said in a televised address on Nov. 17.

She added that a study found there had been a spread of infections in Ayeyarwaddy, Mandalay and Bago regions.

The Southeast Asian country, which has one of the world’s weakest health systems, had relatively few cases with only seven deaths in four months but infections have risen dramatically since mid-August.

Yangon, the most populous city, has the highest number of cases followed by Rakhine state, a conflict-stricken region in western Myanmar.

The whole region of Yangon, Rakhine and some townships in Mandalay, Bago, Ayeyarwaddy and Kachin regions are under stay-at-home orders.

The country reported 1,569 new cases on Nov. 17, bringing total infections to 71,730, including 1,625 deaths and 54,274 recoveries.

Myanmar is considered among the most vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia along with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Timor-Leste, according to the United Nations.

Myanmar ranks third among Asean countries with the highest number of infections and death rates.

According to the latest data, 1,337,343 people have died out of almost 56 million confirmed cases worldwide.

The government has extended Covid-19 prevention measures until the end of November, including the temporary suspension of international and domestic flights.

On Nov. 17, the Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of Covid-19 discussed the issuance of stay-at-home orders during a two-week period from Nov. 21 to Dec. 5.

Churches across the country remain closed and people join Sunday Mass, adoration, Bible reflections and novena prayers via online platforms.

Religious organizations continue to respond to the needs of people, especially the poor, by distributing food and non-food items.

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