If I am to talk about the latest situation regarding COVID, it would be necessary to talk mainly about places where containment measures have not been successful yet and about our vaccination programmes. Yangon Region is the place where we can find the most places where containment efforts have been the weakest. This is a fact already known by people from Yangon Region. That’s why I want them to be especially careful. At this moment the weather is becoming cooler. Because the weather has become cooler, we may find instances of people catching a cold or flu related to the cool weather or the cool season. Therefore from what I understand, if a person who has influenza becomes COVID positive, the situation can become a little more severe. That is why we wish to remind everyone to be extremely careful.
The fact that the Yangon Region was not able to contain the COVID-19 virus has become a challenge for the whole country. This is because in a way, Yangon may be rightly called our commercial city. Therefore, I wish to remind you all that it is very important for this commercial city to recover because this is very important for our economic recovery.
Therefore, some people are only interested to know when we will get our vaccines. We have a programme jointly implemented by the WHO and GAVI, an association focussing on protective vaccines. This is a programme for vaccination against COVID. This is the COVAX programme. We are also participating in this programme. We have sent a letter of request on 7 December. With respect to vaccines, we have learnt that we can get these vaccines. Furthermore, we will buy from other sources if we don’t have enough. We will not get enough vaccines for everyone under this COVAX programme. However, the Union Government has implemented programmes to have enough vaccines for everyone. In the implementation of this programme, we have formed an advisory group composed of senior health professionals. What programmes are we going to implement? How will we store the vaccines? How will we distribute these vaccines? How will we carry out the vaccinations? We have already formulated such programmes.
However, what I wish to remind you is that we have to take into account our country’s long-term development in the implementation of these programmes. What I wish to say is that we might have to carry out vaccination programmes in places where economic recovery has been achieved, if we find this to be necessary. The reason is that it is extremely important for our economic engine to start moving again. At this time, in places where economic activity can be resumed, what I wish to say is that in places where COVID containment efforts have been successful, we might be able to provide vaccines earlier. This is a possibility. We will do these things in a fair manner. Everyone will get the vaccine. However, when will we get the vaccines and who will be given priority, these things will be done in accordance with the needs of the country; it also depends on our ability to cope with these tasks. These will have to be decided.
Therefore, if you wish to get back to the normal routine sooner, you need to be extremely vigilant. Please be very careful. I am not sure that people strictly follow my advice as I have frequently talked about it. At this time, because I have to remind again and again, I am not sure whether some people might even listen to me. However, allow me to remind you as there is a need to remind repeatedly. The rate of infection could be significantly reduced by wearing masks and washing hands. I’m not saying you will have 100 per cent safety. However, wearing masks and washing hands to kill germs could lower the infection rate. The best practice is to stay away from other people who are not family members. Vigilance is needed even at home because some family members have to go outside and come back. I have reminded that although the younger persons in good health conditions have lesser risks of this disease, the elderly groups and people who have underlying health problems are more vulnerable to the pandemic.
Therefore, with regard to COVID, some persons might think that they would not get an infection after they have received COVID-19 vaccination in a very flippant manner. We will conduct the vaccination programme all over the country without leaving anyone behind. This is our policy. No one will be left behind. We have made plans to provide healthcare services to all. However, the vaccination programme cannot be launched across the country for everyone at the same time. It will take months. Please don’t think that the vaccination programme can be implemented right now, today, tomorrow or day after tomorrow. Moreover, the vaccination programme is not likely to begin this month, although we have ordered the vaccine and have drawn up the vaccination plan. The vaccine stock will not arrive immediately. We will try to get it as early as possible. The vaccination programme will need months to reach the whole country. During this period, we need to maintain great vigilance. If the outbreak of the disease occurs continuously, it would be an obstacle to the economic recovery of our country.
Some people have the wrong notion that those who have recovered from this disease will not be infected again. Let me remind you that it is not like that. I understand that experts have confirmed that the disease will not infect almost entirely to the former cases again in 90 days or around three months. However, the infection could occur also after 90 days. So, it should not be considered that they will not be at risk to the infection again. Repeated infection would have an impact on the basic health conditions and impose a burden on the family and the country.
We take full responsibility for taking care of the public’s health. We are proud of the fact that we can take care of people’s health. However, we have a limited budget due to the situation in our country. I have frequently reminded our people about this. We would unavoidably have to reduce certain amounts of the budget in a specific sector to cover the expenditures in another sector. The costs for health services, COVID prevention and treatment, were taken out of the development funds. If our people expect development, immediate progress, and the situation to return to normal, it is important for all to participate and join hands to control the spread of COVID-19. We want all of you to take this seriously.
Despite the spread of the disease, we have relaxed some restrictions in the areas which are not included under stay-at-home orders and in some sectors as we are trying for the situation to return to normal quickly. For example, we are working for the resumption of domestic flights in line with healthcare rules and guidelines. We will enforce the rules. We are also planning to allow both inbound and outbound flights. It will also be implemented as early as possible. Resumption of flights, transportation and travel are aimed for immediate recovery of development. We will reopen the factories and workshops. The reopening of restaurants will be allowed in the areas without stay-at-home orders in accordance with healthcare rules. Therefore, if people want to be free from restrictions, it is important to follow the rules strictly. Therefore, our people, especially in Yangon, are requested to help the country in the containment of COVID-19. Wishing you good health and well-being. — MNA (Translated by Kyaw Myaing and Aung Khin)