Coup. Coronavirus. Chaos.
Myanmar is grappling with all three simultaneously, reported Reuters. The Southeast Asian country of 54 million people has been wracked in political turmoil for months, complicating its pandemic response and collapsing the health care system.
This week, Myanmar’s seven-day rolling per capita death rate reached 6.29 deaths per one million people — more than twice as high as the per capita death rate in India at the peak of its crisis in May, reported the AP.
COVID-19 outbreaks in Myanmar have reached a crisis point. Half of the country’s population could be infected within two weeks, according to some estimates, per Al Jazeera. But the virus outbreaks wouldn’t stop at Myanmar’s borders.
Bordering five nations, Myanmar could become a “super spreader” state, per The Guardian.
What’s going on with COVID-19 outbreaks in Myanmar?
Myanmar is currently experiencing its worst coronavirus wave yet, reported the Deseret News. Official numbers have shown a sharp rise since June, but experts widely believe that these numbers are drastic undercounts, per The Associated Press.
- Over the last two weeks, cases in Myanmar increased by 105%, reported the Deseret News.
- Thursday, Myanmar reported 5,234 new cases and 342 deaths, according to the health ministry’s statistics, reported the AP.
- Reports from medics and funeral services describe an even higher toll, reported Al Jazeera.
Cases in Myanmar are expected to continue rising drastically in the coming weeks. By one estimate from the U.K., half of Myanmar’s population — or 27 million people — could be infected with COVID-19 within the next two weeks, per Al Jazeera.
Why is COVID-19 surging in Myanmar?
The situation in Myanmar is near chaos, reported Reuters. The delta variant is surging while the health care system is collapsing.
- The junta and military government have been accused of using the pandemic to “consolidate power and crush opposition,” per the AP.
- “The military is weaponizing COVID,” said Yanghee Lee, former Myanmar human rights expert to the U.N., per the AP.
Doctors and other health care workers — many of whom participated in demonstrations protesting the military government — have been attacked or arrested, reported Al Jazeera. The military still has warrants out for hundreds of medical professionals.
By the U.N.’s estimate, only 40% of health care facilities in Myanmar are still functioning. Out of fear, some doctors have taken to treating patients in secret, reported The Guardian.
- So far, Myanmar has only vaccinated about 3.2% of its population, per Al Jazeera.
- Vaccination efforts in Myanmar face compounding difficulties since people may be hesitant of the vaccine, the military government trying to vaccinate them or both, per Reuters.
“Ongoing political tension and deep distrust between the public and the ruling military junta — which took power in February’s coup — has made a bad situation even worse,” reported the Deseret News.
What will happen in Myanmar?
This week, Myanmar’s military called for international aid for its coronavirus response. The U.K. has also pushed for the U.N. to lead a cease-fire in conflict zones of the country to ensure vaccines are delivered, reported Al Jazeera. Neither effort has gotten much traction.
- “Myanmar is becoming a super-spreader of COVID-19 with these very virulent variants,” said Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, per The Guardian.
- “COVID does not respect nationalities or borders or ideologies or political parties,” Andrews said. “It’s an equal opportunities killer.
- “This is a region that is susceptible to even greater suffering as a result of Myanmar becoming a super-spreader state,” he said.
About one-third of the world’s population lives in countries neighboring Myanmar, such as India and China, reported The Guardian.