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Myanmar students back home from virus-stricken Wuhan

Returnees to be kept in quarantine for 14 days as country beefs up surveillance at airports and border crossings

Myanmar students back home from virus-stricken Wuhan

A man and his son wear face masks as a precaution as they visit a Chinese temple to mark the Lunar New Year in Yangon's Chinatown. (Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Some 59 Myanmar students have been evacuated from Wuhan, the coronavirus-stricken city in China, after being stranded there for weeks.

The students arrived in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, in the early morning of Feb. 2. They will remain in quarantine there for two weeks.

They were reportedly facing dwindling food supplies in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, which is in virtual lockdown.

Of the 63 registered students in Wuhan, four were left in China as one did not meet immigration rules, one was outside the province and the other two had a high fever and required medical treatment, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Than Than Myint, head of Mandalay region’s public health and medical services department, said a superintendent from Mandalay General Hospital has been assigned along with two nurses and two health workers to provide medical services to the students.

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“After 14 days, the students will be sent back to their homes,” said Than Than Myint, who was quoted in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Feb. 3.

Major Ye Lwin, chairman of Mandalay’s Surveillance and Response Team, said the area where evacuated the students are being quarantined is restricted and security staff have been ordered to shoot anyone who tries to sneak in or who does not follow the security measures.

“Except for the medical team, no one will be allowed to enter the hospital,” Ye Lwin said on his official Facebook page.

Win Tun Kyi, director of Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar’s national office in Yangon, said it is carrying out prevention and awareness programs at internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Myitkyina and Banmaw in Kachin state and Lashio in Shan state.

“We prioritize the IDP camps in collaboration with other NGOs and faith-based groups as they are at risk since they are near the China border,” Win Tun Kyi told UCA News.

He said Karuna is also preparing to provide masks and hygiene kits to people in camps.

Myanmar has so far not reported any case of the deadly virus but seven people suspected of having the coronavirus are being quarantined at hospitals in the country.

Myanmar’s authorities turned back a China Southern flight from Guangzhou on Jan. 31 after one Chinese passenger was found with the symptoms of high fever, a cough, sneezing and sore throat.

The individual was treated in a quarantined room and closely monitored and his health condition is stable, according to the Ministry of Sports and Health.

Myanmar has no laboratory to test for the deadly virus and is sending samples from suspected patients to neighboring Thailand.

Myanmar has been on high alert and beefing up surveillance measures at airports, seaports and land border crossings in an effort to prevent the entry of the virus.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Feb. 1 that the government has temporarily suspended visa-on-arrival privileges for Chinese travelers effective from that day. The measure will be lifted when the outbreak subsides.

Hundreds of Myanmar migrants working in China have also returned to their homes through border checkpoints which remain open.

The coronavirus outbreak has been categorized as a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, with cases confirmed in 28 countries.

The death toll from the virus is approaching 430, almost all in China.

China’s National Health Commission’s latest figures on Feb. 3 showed that there were 21,558 suspected cases in the country and that 152,700 people are under medical watch.

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