Press conference at Presidential Palace touches on COVID-19 issues

Director-General  U Zaw Htay explains the preparations for COVID-19 at the press conference in the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. Photo: MNA
Director-General U Zaw Htay explains the preparations for COVID-19 at the press conference in the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. Photo: MNA

The Director-General of the Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor, U Zaw Htay, explained preparations for COVID-19 at a press conference in the Presidential Palace yesterday evening.
The following are excerpts of U Zaw Htay’s responses to the press:
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March and the State Counsellor called for an emergency meeting to address the matter the next day. The meeting focused on prevention, containment and treatment of the disease, its long-term negative consequences and the sectors it will impact. Details of the meeting are already made public in the news.
WHO has warned that the rate at which the virus spreads can increase in many countries. There are no confirmed cases in Myanmar, as of today. Nonetheless, the government is making all necessary preparations against the virus amid the global outbreak. The President’s Office has issued directives to Union-level institutions and ministries and state/regional governments.
The President’s Office has also issued a request to the public concerning the virus. The public is advised to closely follow announcements and health guidelines, including those issued by the Minister of Health and Sports, and to remain calm.
WHO’s risk assessment for the virus is ‘Very High’ and their recommendations to avoid large public gathering and to maintain personal hygiene have been disseminated by MoHS. The elderly are particularly at risk to the virus and they are advised to avoid public spaces, maintain a healthy diet and get enough sleep.
COVID-19 is still not present in Myanmar and there have been questions and doubts on that. The government and MoHS are publishing true news. Myanmar was also relatively untouched during the SARS epidemic. The lifestyle and diet of Myanmar citizens are beneficial against the coronavirus.
Human to human transmission is the leading contribution to the spread of the virus in Western countries. Myanmar does not share the customs of greeting with handshakes, hugs or kisses that these countries have. It also does not have a high number of credit card users compared to other nations, as the person handling credit cards at the counter would be in close contact with hundred of different people in a day. This is avoided by Myanmar’s predominant use of paper currency.
People rushed to stock up on food and necessities the other day, mostly panicking as a result of misinformation and disinformation concerning COVID-19. The President’s Office announcement was issued to address that. Businesses were told that the current pandemic is on a global scale and the governments, private sectors and citizens of other nations are working together to support their countries, and as such, businesses are urged not to exploit the situation for personal gain.
Myanmar plants more than enough rice and other crops to supply the nation that it can afford to export agricultural products to other nations. Thus, there is enough food for Myanmar within its own borders. The State currently has 15,000 tonnes of rice reserves. This will be combined with rice reserves of businesses to draw up action plans as necessary. Rice exports will be limited if required as well.
Severe legal action will be taken against businesses intending to make ill profits off of this situation, as well as those sharing fake news on social media and inciting unrest among the public.
Committees have been set up to address the potential effects of COVID-19 all over Myanmar. There is the committee jointly chaired by Union Ministers U Kyaw Tin and Dr Myint Htwe, as well as the national protection and containment committee headed by the State Counsellor concerning the virus.
MoHS regularly issues necessary guidelines regarding COVID-19. There are many sources claiming to be authentic or citing other news sources with altered facts. The public is reminded to not believe something just because it is shared a lot, and to carefully scrutinize news sources for authenticity.
Next, U Zaw Htay answered to questions from the media. He responded to questions on the ‘Victoria’ toddler sexual assault case. He said those concerned are facing repercussions from relevant departments and the situation will be submitted to the President’s Office. He said the case is still ongoing and the results will depend on the validity of evidence provided and on the plaintiff, victim and her family.
Going back to COVID-19, the Director-General said the decision on whether to close movie theaters in the current situation is up to the state/regional governments to choose. The President’s Office has issued directives, and the state/regional governments and ministries will make decisions accordingly.—MNA (Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)

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