Myanmar’s Effort to Trace COVID-19 Spread Treads on Sensitive Territory

Myanmar’s second wave of coronavirus may have been triggered by “returnees” from neighboring Bangladesh, who brought the illness back with them when they illegally entered Rakhine state, which is now a COVID-19 hotspot, according to a senior government health official.

But other experts say the evidence remains inconclusive, and the quest to find out the source of infections is hampered by limited contact tracing, poor compliance with coronavirus countermeasures and porous borders not with only Bangladesh, but also with Thailand, China, and India.

Like continental Southeast Asian neighbors Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, Myanmar largely avoided widespread COVID-19 infections that spread around the globe through the first half of the year. But the country of 54 million people has seen a deadly return of the virus since mid-August.

“It is possible that the second wave started from Rakhine,” Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, director of the Central Contagious Disease Prevention and Eradication Department at the Ministry of Health and Sports, told RFA’s Myanmar Service in a telephone interview. Rakhine has become a hotspot for the virus, along with the Yangon region.

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Moe Myint and Nay Myo Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Than Than Win and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.