The Central Committee on Monitoring and Prevention of 2019 Novel Coronavirus held their daily coordination meeting (10/2020) at the Ministry of Health and Sports yesterday.
Union Minister Dr Myint Htwe first addressed the meeting with a message to the public that the speed at which the virus is spreading in China is rising with each passing day, and has jumped from a rate of 2,000 new cases per day on 31 January 2020 to 4,000 per day as of 5 February 2020.
The Union Minister said that the World Health Organization report on 6 February noted that 99 per cent of confirmed cases are occurring in China, with the virus spreading to 24 other countries as well. He said there are currently 28,276 confirmed cases globally, with 28,060 of the cases confirmed in China alone.
He said the mortality rate of lab-tested patients is at 2 per cent, with 565 deaths confirmed so far in China. Other confirmed cases outside of China include 33 in Japan, 25 in Thailand, 24 in Singapore, and 10 in Viet Nam, said the Union Minister.
He said that from both pathological and public health perspectives, it is likely the virus will spread further. He said WHO is continuously monitoring the virus and updating news concerning it on its website in real time, and the MoHS will disseminate this information to the public in the same manner.
The Union Minister said that the reproduction rate of the 2019-nCoV virus is higher than other communicable diseases, according to computer simulation tests. He said assessing the current situation shows the virus is contagious from person to person, and that authorities are unfaltering in prevention and containment of the virus.
The Union Minister said they are tirelessly monitoring for early symptoms and suspected cases of the virus, quarantining suspected persons and patients being monitored from the general public and administering treatment, and monitoring persons who have been in close contact with suspected persons or patients for symptoms as well.
He added that the incubation period of the virus can vary from 2 to 10 days, and as such, persons entering the country are arriving during the incubation period and those not showing symptoms yet can be in our surroundings right now. He called on the public to contact their nearest health department if people arriving from countries with the virus show suspected symptoms.
The Union Minister said hotel and guesthouse staff should similarly report signs of suspected symptoms to the nearest health department immediately. He said this will reduce the spread of the virus. He said health departments have been instructed to respond swiftly to reports of suspected cases.
He said they are sharing medical information on the virus to crowded markets, bus stops and terminals, buses, hotels and guesthouses, tourist attraction sites, restaurants, schools, and offices. He encouraged the public to carefully read and follow the facts outlined in these posters and share it with family and friends as well.
The Union Minister said they are working closely with the Ministry of Information to disseminate information concerning the virus through television and radio broadcasts, with special emphasis on radio stations in ethnic languages. He said they will increase the efforts of their ministry and other relevant ministries and organizations to ensure the public receives genuine and comprehensive information in real time.
The Union Minister urged the public to cross-check rumours or fake news with authentic news sources, and requested citizens to refrain from sharing fake news on social media. He said festivals and commemorations should be reduced to only the most essential events during this period, so as to prevent mass public gatherings and encourage spread of the virus. He told the public to avoid crowded places as much as possible.
The Union Minister said the Health Education Division has disseminated information on the systematic use of face masks, proper hand washing, and guidelines to follow when sneezing or coughing, among other facts, and the nation will be able to effectively control the spread of the virus if the entire public closely follows these facts. He said further information will be compiled and shared with the public.
The Union Minister said the 59 students flown back to Mandalay by special flight from Wuhan, Hubei Province, have shown positive signs as of their medical inspection yesterday morning. He said the status of persons being monitored and patients in hospitals are likewise showing positive signs. He said samples of 10 patients have been sent to designated laboratories and the results of 5 persons have returned, all showing negative, while the remaining five lab test results have yet to arrive.
The Union Minister said WHO declared the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and issued recommendations on 5 January to all countries regarding the situation. He said MoHS has been performing the tasks in these recommendations prior to WHO’s announcements.
He said they include increasing active surveillance of the virus, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing, prevention of onward spread of the virus, exchanging information with WHO.
The Union Minister said they have instructed the states and regions to prepare 25 new patient wards to accommodate the patients under surveillance. He said they have given clear directives to the public health and treatment department heads of the states and regions to follow. He said they have suspended visa on arrivals for travelers from China and since then, travelers flying in from China have gone down from 2,300 on average per day since 31 January to 323 travelers in both Yangon and Mandalay international airports combined. He said the hotels and guesthouses where the 323 landed travelers will be staying have been notified as well.
The Union Minister said as China and Myanmar share an expansive border measuring 1,300 miles long, proper inspection at legal entry gates and possible illegal points of entry are important. He said MoHS officials are collaborating with relevant ministries in surveillance of the virus according to rules and regulations at the border entry points.
He said entry from these locations is several times higher than from flights to Myanmar, thus, they have instructed MoHS officials to work closely with relevant ministries and local organizations regarding the matter. The ministry has notified WHO of this important fact in calculating the range of the virus’ spread and possibly consider Myanmar a prioritized country for medical and lab supplies.
The Union Minister said his ministry’s officials will consider recommendations from any and all organizations by gauging it with the current situation of Myanmar before making decisions. He said they must consider all perspectives and take into consideration geography, regional rate of transmission, social, economic and trade aspects, and travel status in order to make informed and effective responses to the changing situation. He said they must also be mindful of avoiding negative impacts on trade and the economy.
The Union Minister said he has instructed the state/regional public health and medical services departments to exchange all information on containment and prevention of the virus with each other and to adopt appropriate models from other states/regions if it is deemed appropriate. He said the state/regional governments have formed containment units with relevant government departments to handle the situation.
The Union Minister said all virus containment and prevention processes are archived so that they may help as a point of reference in the future and as teaching materials in public health courses. He said ministry officials with relatively high experience will guide the next generation of professionals and teachers from public health and basic health universities to acquire practical experience by having them involved in these containment processes.
The Union Minister said the ministry regularly updates news and information on the situation on their website (www.mohs.gov.mm) and their social media pages for public viewing. He concluded his speech by expressing his gratitude to all persons and entities involved in responding to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Present at the meeting were the Deputy Minister and Permanent Secretary of MoHS, the Director-General of the Union Minister’s Office, the Director-General of the Public Health and Medical Services Department, the Deputy Director-General of Treatment and the Deputy Director-General of Disease Eradication, Deputy Director-General of Public Health, Deputy Director-General of Administration and Finance, Deputy Director-General of Procurement and Logistics, Director of Central Communicable Disease Eradication, Director of Treatment, the Medical Superintendent of Nay Pyi Taw General Hospital, professors of communicable disease treatment and medicine, and officials from domestic and foreign communications and information, public health, treatment, laboratory, and eHealth sectors.—MNA (Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)