Ten days ago, Myanmar seemed to have COVID-19 under control. Just a handful of local transmission cases had been confirmed in the past three months.
The Ministry of Health and Sports has now reported more than 100 new cases within 24 hours, including 99 in Rakhine State, and has issued stay at home orders for the state’s approximately 2.5 million residents in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
The number of confirmed infections in Rakhine since August 16 has surged to 179, as of 9pm on August 26, and those infected include frontline health workers and the elderly. Many have no history of international travel or known contact with COVID-19 patients, and there are concerns that the state’s limited health facilities could soon be overwhelmed.
Early last week, masks were a rare sight in Sittwe, the epicentre of the outbreak, and markets and schools were still open. Rising case numbers though have left many people in Rakhine on edge, and Sittwe residents told Frontier they are living in fear of the disease.
“People are getting scared because the number of cases in the city keeps increasing every day,” U Khin Pe, a 61-year-old resident from Sittwe’s Myo Tha Gyi Ward, told Frontier on August 26. “They just go outside in the morning, before 9am, to shop. There are very few people outside by noon … Every single person is worried this second wave of COVID-19 will be serious.”
AUNG PHAY KYI SOE and KAUNG HSET NAING