State Counsellor delivers speech on updated situations of COVID-19 containment measures

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We are now in our New Year – 2021; we are now in the third week of the New Year. I guess the people already know the COVID-19 disease situation. Daily infections hover around 500. During the last few days, the infection rate has gone down a bit to 400 or a little over 400. But this is still not adequate enough. It is important that our progress should be better than this. However, to give you some good news, on the 22nd, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive in Myanmar. Half a million doses will be received. Half a million means about 750,000 of our people can be vaccinated. Each person needs to be vaccinated twice. After the first dose, the next dose has to be given after 28 days. Therefore, the Ministry of Health and Sports has already made plans to carry out these procedures effectively and with meticulous detail.
Therefore, the first batch that we will receive will be only for 750,000 persons. Therefore, we have to give very careful consideration as to how we will use these 750,000 doses in the best interest of the country. Thus the first priority will be given to the people who are working on the frontlines – our health personnel. I believe all our people will agree with this. Our health personnel, who are on the frontlines; among the health personnel, we have also included volunteers.
They are the frontline workers who are participating in the activities to combat COVID-19. They are our people who are providing health care. We will give vaccinations to these people on a priority basis. The next thing we have to consider is how to proceed stage by stage. We will be getting vaccines, and some of them will be donated. However, the majority will be bought by our government. As we receive these vaccines, we have to consider very carefully which groups we need to give priority. In making these considerations, we have to take into consideration two factors. The first factor is the strategic groups of persons who are needed to run the governmental machinery at a normal pace. Why? The suffering of our people will be lessened only if our governmental machinery is running at a normal pace.
These groups of persons are important. The next group is the people who are prone to get infected; those whose immunity level is low. The next group consists of people who can be easily infected. We had to consider how to achieve a good balance between these two groups. The group with low immunity level means the people who are advanced in age and those who already have underlying diseases. When we talk about groups of persons where infection spread can be high are those people who are living in congested situations where a lot of people live in close proximity. Therefore, we have to consider very carefully how to deal with these two categories of people to arrive at a correct and fair decision.
Therefore, we have to give priority as I have explained previously – health personnel and our people who are working on the frontlines providing service. People in the second group are those in the strategic sectors of our government. We will give them vaccinations. I feel a little reluctant to say this because I belong to this category. I believe our people would be able to understand the fact that I belong to this category. The reason is that, for the State machinery to be running, it is very important that our central government and our region and state governments are functioning effectively. In terms of numbers, it is not that much. Please allow me to say this.
These are the vital government service personnel and members of our respective governments at various levels. If we add them all up, the number is not that huge. We will all be in the first group. We have included our members of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in this first group which represents people who are vital for the government machinery. The reason is that the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw is to be convened soon. Our respective Hluttaw representatives will all be coming from all parts of our country to attend the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. Therefore, it is a practical thing to do to vaccinate all of them while they are all in one place. Furthermore, it is very important for the running of the government machinery. Then as the next step, we will go to places where the infection rate is high and to persons who are vital for the functioning of our government machinery and places where important people are living. Therefore, when we actually consider this matter in practical terms, these are areas where the population density is high. According to our experience, areas with high population density are areas where the infection rate is high. For example, the “stay at home” townships; therefore, we will be giving priority to these areas. However, it is not easy for us to vaccinate all the “stay at home” townships all at once.
The reason is that according to our estimate, there will be a little over 11 million persons if we have to vaccinate all these townships. It is impossible for us to vaccinate over 11 million people within a matter of one day round-the-clock. We need to consider the rate of arrival of our vaccines.
The Ministry of Health and Sports has sufficient capacity to proceed with the vaccinations. Furthermore, plans have been made in advance. We cannot say definitely the number of vaccines which will be available at each time. However, we are sure that the vaccines will be received tomorrow. We expect more stocks of vaccines to arrive in the country in the following week. But I don’t want to guarantee until we are definitely sure. The process depends not only on us but also on the country of origin. We have made plans to handle the vaccine, with preparations for proper storage and transportation to the respective destinations of the vaccination programme. However, we can continue with the remaining process only when we receive the shipment of vaccines.
In the meantime, the first thing we will do is to begin the vaccination programme next week for the frontline health workers and volunteers. At this stage, we will be able to identify difficulties and make better plans in the vaccination programme. The key government officials, civil services personnel and Hluttaw representatives will be included in the following step. We have targeted to conclude these steps in the next week or 10 days. Depending on available vaccines, we will expand the vaccination programme to control the disease in important places for the resumption of our government machinery. We will also inform our programmes to the public about the reason for prioritizing the specific groups.
I want to urge you all to maintain constant vigilance, thinking that the vaccine would be available soon. It is a matter of utmost seriousness. As I have mentioned, each person needs two doses of vaccines within the 28-day interval for its effectiveness. The first vaccinated group should not live carelessly. We need to protect ourselves in line with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Sports, such as the basic rules of wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding crowds and observing social distancing.
The second dose will come after 28 days of the first one. It will be a waste of resources if the vaccinated persons with the first dose are infected by the disease as they failed to abide by the rules. Then, the first vaccination would be in vain. They would also miss the full potency of vaccination if they could not control themselves for 28 days. It is also recommended that more seriousness must be taken after the first dose of vaccination to achieve the effectiveness of the vaccine after receiving its second dose.
I say that we will get the full benefits of the vaccines, but at the same time, we still do not know all the details about the effectiveness of these vaccines. This is a trial period for the entire world. We are experimenting. These vaccines are being tested. How effective are the vaccines? How long will they be effective? So far, we cannot say for sure. So, please take care of your health even after vaccination. Be careful. Do not take the situation lightly. We have to try hard to get into the habit of living with care. Moreover, in the meantime, the people who have yet to be vaccinated need to be especially careful.
Some of our citizens may have already heard and know about it. We can say that, in many countries, COVID-19 has undergone a genetic mutation that has reached a stage that the disease is spreading more rapidly. The faster the disease spreads, the harder to control it. So now we have to be more careful. A new COVID-19 variant is also being reported in Britain. Some say that the new variant of South Africa is different from the variant of Britain. They say it is also spreading fast. So, we cannot guess what will happen in other countries too.
So, it is important to protect yourself. By protecting yourself, you also protect the people in your environment. If you do not get the disease, it cannot be passed on to anyone through you. So, let me request you to be careful. Another thing is that our citizens know that we have set up a fund to buy the vaccines. As usual, our people are united when it really matters. All of us are making donations in unity to raise the fund. First, Kyat 1 billion was raised by the State.
The fund has now been collectively contributed also by individual donors, and the total amount became Kyat 18.781 billion. So, we can see how generous our people are. That amount is the collective donation in Kyats. Moreover, in US dollars, the State set up US$250 million as a fund. Our people contributed to that fund in dollars, too. So I can say that our situation is good. In my opinion, our people contributed more than US$2.97 million. That is the donation in dollar currency contributed by donors. We will spend the money to provide the people with the vaccines they need in order to protect themselves against the COVID-19 disease. I pledge that the money will not be wasted. I would like express my profound appreciation and thanks to our people for their collective support.
I would like to say that the collective contribution is also a source of pride and pleasure for our nation. For now, we can say that our New Year begins with good news. We can say that this is a great New Year. I wish that the year continues being to be great for the rest of the year. To make this year a great year, I would like to request all our people to support us to make all COVID-19 control and treatment programmes a success. I wish all of you, peace of mind. Thanks.
(Translated by Kyaw Myaing, Aung Khin)

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