Myanmar overwhelmed by pandemic as country marks six month since coup

Bangkok, Jul 31 (EFE).- With an overwhelmed health system due to the coronavirus pandemic, Myanmar is facing an alarming health situation as the country marks on Sunday six months of a military coup that has dragged the country into social and political chaos.

Official data reported a total of 294,000 contagions and 8,942 deaths, but many experts consider these figures do not reflect the much more drastic reality due to lack of testing with a capacity of only 15,000 tests per day for a population of 55 million.

In the past month alone, over 5,000 people have died from coronavirus despite the nationwide lockdown imposed by the military on July 17.

A group of former United Nations representatives in Myanmar called for an “immediate humanitarian intervention” by the UN after the United Kingdom warned up to half of the country’s population could be infected in the next two weeks due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has spread throughout Southeast Asia.

The health situation in the country, in a deep political crisis since the military coup d’état on February 1, has worsened, with doctors and nurses striking in rejection of the military command.

Thousands of citizens find themselves without medical workers to turn to and with a lack of medical equipment, including a shortage of oxygen.

To avoid the violent repression of the military junta, health workers have created clandestine networks to assist the sick.

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, infected people in need of help hang yellow or white clothes from their windows to alert neighbors, local media reported.

“When people ask for help, in most cases it means that the whole family is sick or infected. I was asked for help in one shelter where all the occupants were sick with Covid-19. They cannot get out,” a social worker told the newspaper.

The health crisis overlaps with the human rights crisis that the country has been experiencing since February 1, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, denounced on Friday.

“It is a clear example of the Myanmar military’s ruinous mismanagement and the enormous human toll. (…) By continuously persecuting health workers, threatening and arresting them, the military authorities have reduced the fragile health system to a bare minimum during a global pandemic. This is unacceptable and was preventable,” he said.

Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, warned this week that security forces have attacked at least 260 health workers, killing 18 of them, while 67 have been arrested and 600 are wanted.

The arrests of medical personnel are among the human rights violations reported by multiple groups, along with indiscriminate arrests and violence by law enforcement, which have killed nearly 1,000 people since the military took power by force on February 1.

“The Burmese junta has responded to the massive popular opposition to the coup with killings, torture and arbitrary detention of people who only want the results of last year’s elections to be respected and to have a government that reflects the will of the people,” said Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch Asia.

“These attacks on the population constitute crimes against humanity,” he added.

The military justified the uprising, which ended a democratic process they had engineered a decade earlier, by alleged electoral fraud in the November elections in which leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won, as it had done in 2015. EFE


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