Chairperson of the National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a videoconference from the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday morning at 10 am with frontline officials of quarantine centres.
Those who participated in the videoconference were: U Maung Maung Aye, EC member of “We Love Yangon”, Dr Chit Ko Han, Deputy Head of the Yangon Region Department of Public Health and U Nyi Tun, member of the Nay Pyi Taw Council.
In her introductory remarks the State Counsellor said that first of all she would like to say something about a personal matter; she wanted to apologize for the fact that one positive case was found in her compound in Yangon; as a Government we do not wish to blame any person for COVID infection; the important thing is to search and identify those who are infected and give them prompt treatment; only then would we be able to contain this disease; we have already published in the newspapers the list of those who came back by plane from Rakhine to Yangon; although we have asked them to contact the relevant authorities about half of them have not contacted; therefore we are going to republish these lists in the newspapers together with their addresses; only then would their neighbours and friends know who they are; we cannot let this matter go away lightly; a certain number of days will be given and if they did not contact the authorities voluntarily, action would be taken against those people if found out later; in taking action this is not as a punishment but as a reminder; if we do not take this kind of action, the disease could spread very quickly in a place like Yangon.
At this time, all of us need to be very vigilant; in her case she had plans to go to Yangon in the evening to go to Kawhmu which is her constituency and also go to Seikkyi Kanaungto Township for some official business; however the Union Minister for Health and Sports did not approve of this idea so this trip has been cancelled; we need to follow strictly the instructions of this ministry and refrain from doing anything which does not have their approval; the governmental machinery should not come to a standstill because of COVID, the machinery must keep on running; and at the same time we should be able to contain COVID-19.
We can assume that we have begun to contain the COVID disease in Rakhine State; the cases of infection have not increased and seem to have reached a plateau; however the spread of infections in Yangon Region is very high; it may not be wrong to say that Yangon is a commercial city; the majority of foreign embassies and foreign organizations have their offices in Yangon; Yangon is very important and has a large population; she wanted all participants of the videoconference to think of how Yangon could overcome the COVID challenge.
Advice to people who returned from Rakhine State
The names of people who came back from Rakhine by air after 10 August 2020 have been published in the newspapers. Although they were informed to contact with relevant departments, about half of them have not made their report. Therefore, their names will be published again together with their addresses. And that, they would be known by their neighbours and friends. There will be a specific period for the report. If they failed to make the report voluntarily during this period, legal actions will be filed against them.
About half of those who travelled from Rakhine State have not made reports until now, and more than 4,500 people, still need to do so.
They need to make a voluntary report to the nearby health centres and administrative organizations in consideration of themselves, their family members, their wards/villages, their townships and regions and their citizens.
Discussions of U Maung Maung Aye, the EC member of We Love Yangon
There are many volunteers in the civil society organization We Love Yangon which was formed on 5 March; both Myanmar nationals at home and abroad contributed their cash donations; the We Love Yangon systematically managed the funds, including necessary food supplies to the urban areas, medicines and medical supplies to the South Okkalapa hospital and Warbargi hospital; they also worked for sharing the relief items to Rakhine State in coordination with the Yangon Region government; the We Love Yangon is also making free distribution of facial masks, conducting healthcare awareness in the markets, carrying out disinfection in and around the lockdown areas.
Dr Chit Ko Han, the Deputy Head of Public Health Department in Yangon Region
He explained medical tests and diagnosis at the quarantine centre; 1,000 persons who returned from Rakhine State have been quarantined, informing the returnees from this state from 10 to 20 August for their report to the health departments, and they were put under ‘stay at home’ programme instead of bringing them to the quarantine centres; further managements were made depending on their results in coordination with the regional government.
He also requested for further assistance of transportation teams, and the requirements of these teams would be fulfilled in coordination with the regional government.
About half of the passengers from Rakhine State have not made contact, and they would probably fear quarantine; over 4,500 of them are needed for the report; they would be kept under home quarantine; depending on their possible infection rate, medical tests will be conducted.
The death toll is not high, although more positive cases were found; they need to review treatments and quarantine systems of confirmed cases.
In relations to the status of its severity, damage of internal organs and inflammation of blood vessels would occur, and that the directive of health department needs to be followed.
Advice to people in Yangon Region
About 6,000 people have been quarantined in Yangon. Within two days, quarantine spaces were arranged for 1,000 people who came back from Rakhine State. Now, the number of people who had contacts with COVID-19 patients has increased, so seven new quarantine centres have been established for 1,000 more people. The civil society organizations and volunteers are invited to help the persons at the quarantine centres.
People in Yangon need to send the persons who had contacts with confirmed cases in the contact tracing to the quarantine centres without making them worried.
People should adhere to the required rules and regulations in the quarantine centres. When sending food to people in quarantine centres, alcohol and cigarettes should not be included in the delivery.
People in Yangon have lots of difficulties, challenges and burdens. Therefore, they need to strictly follow the rules by staying at home in two to three weeks during this period. In going outside for necessary reasons, they must wear masks. As Yangon City has a large population, people are also advised to abide by the rules of Ministry of Health and Sports amidst the increasing number of confirmed cases.
Member of Nay Pyi Taw Council U Nyi Tun
Access to Nay Pyi Taw was tightened at 12 entry gates beginning 2 September; however, some persons tried to enter the capital from other ways through inter-village roads connected to the highway; although more entry points were guarded in coordination with the members of Myanmar Police Force; village administrators were asked to monitor those who illegally come into the area and send them to the quarantine centres.
Limit of access to Nay Pyi Taw was announced on the website, Facebook and media on 2 September; the coming in and out of travellers have returned to regular situations; most of them were people for necessary travelling, civil service staff and the residents who came back to home; those who have arrived in Nay Pyi Taw were sent to the quarantine centres and their swabs were tested on the second day of quarantine centres; if they tested negative, they were allowed to continue to the destinations; as they have to live only three days at the quarantine centres, the authorities could manage their quarantine well.
Although 500 to 600 trucks are running on the Yangon-Mandalay old highway road, jut 20 to 30 trucks entered Nay Pyi Taw; meanwhile, the remaining cargo vehicles led to Mandalay and Taunggyi; these vehicles were managed to move directly to the exit gate; the commodity flow is in the normal condition in Nay Pyi Taw.
There are eight quarantine centres in Nay Pyi Taw; the main centre is the city development committee guesthouse; 159 staff members and 273 people are under quarantine there; 412 returnees from foreign countries are kept at the Tatmadaw transit centre; hospitals are also set up as the quarantine centres for contact persons, and 66 persons are at the four hospitals.
Some 50 persons from the health department, the General Administration Department, the Myanmar Police Force, and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and the volunteers are providing healthcare services, including medical tests twice a day.
Public awareness campaigns are also being conducted in the capital, including surprise checks at the restaurants; the expenses for control measures are used from the national central committee; the Nay Pyi Taw Council Area has received over 169.3 million kyats from private donors and 44.8 million kyats from the national committee.
Discussions of the State Counsellor
Regarding the discussions, the State Counsellor said that ‘fear’ is not good, but as she has repeatedly said, there was no such thing as an excess of vigilance, and she wanted the people to be vigilant; COVID-19 would not be a problem if each individual kept the discipline; at present, the source of spreading remains unknown, the government is not finding fault with anyone; it needs to be considered how to encourage the individual to live in solitude; “We Love Yangon” is requested to provide information; some persons think that giving information is causing problems for someone; that is not the case, but it was for the public good; although someone has recovered from the disease, two points need to be considered; the first thing is another person infected from the someone might not be as lucky, and that it needed to consider that the other person could get infected.
The second thing is that the long-term results of COVID-19 are still not yet known; some say that this disease would leave respiratory diseases and some other weaknesses; however, these conclusions have not been confirmed until now.
The whole country is encountering lots of economic challenges; well-wishers who made donations in COVID-19 measures have not been able to run their businesses in the normal manner for the past 4 or 5 months; the Union Government will provide possible assistance from the state revenue as needed; support from the public would be greatly appreciated; no one should make an illegal entry into Nay Pyi Taw; it is also required to report on the returns from other areas; charges for medical tests have been reduced significantly; people should be able to afford healthcare services, and that they should not try to enter Nay Pyi Taw secretly; their family members or their neighbours must not allow this; providing information to authorities about this means helping others from having problems.
All people who came from Rakhine to Yangon by flights are not residents of Yangon; they could have come from Rakhine State to Yangon and have gone from Yangon to other areas; it would be a great success if the disease could be controlled in Yangon; the country is facing against two major challenges at the same time; the first one is to control the COVID-19 and the second one is to hold the 2020 General Election successfully; these two issues have arisen at the same time; all the matters must be handled successfully; the strength of a country is her ability to accomplish the tasks successfully; although Myanmar is not a rich country, any problem could be overcome if she is rich in spiritual strength and capacity for work; if these two major issues could be handled at the same time, the country would get great encouragement; people should develop confidence to overcome any challenge in the future; as she grew up during the early independence period, she had heard about struggles for independence since her childhood; Myanmar fought against Japanese occupation and regained independence from the British empire; people of the country are filled with the spirit of firm determination to overcome any challenge; therefore, Myanmar was seen in her childhood as a very intelligent and wealthy country in the world; it was assumed that the whole world know Myanmar language; her generation regarded that Myanmar achieved a dominant position in the world; this was because of the success of their parents.
As the ancestors of Myanmar people could struggle for independence, their generations have firm confidence to achieve success in any circumstances; people have an opportunity to prove their capacity in this ongoing issue.
Individuals are responsible for controlling COVID-19; informing about the suspected symptoms to authorities is a step to control the disease; the assistance of civil service organizations such as “We Love Yangon” is needed for this; the Ministry of Health and Sports is doing their best; the Union Government will also provide assistance, while volunteer service and financial assistance from the people will be an encouragement for the Union Government.
Advice to people in Nay Pyi Taw
People should not illegally come to Nay Pyi Taw. If a person comes back from other places to Nay Pyi Taw, he/she needs to inform and receive medical examination. The charge for COVID-19 tests has been considerably reduced.
It has been learnt that some people get out of the cars on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway and some old roads, and then they entered into Nay Pyi Taw via motorcycle roads and inter-village roads. So, authorities are cooperating with the Myanmar Police Force to take strict measures to control these illegal entries.
The ward/village administrators have been instructed to report, manage and send individuals who entered or came back to the ward/village to the quarantine centres.
To make the flow of goods smooth, truck drivers will be given the slip at the entrance gate. From the entrance gate, the drivers must drive their trucks directly to the exit gate, where the slip must be returned. The truck drivers are not allowed to go to other places between the entrance gate and the exit gate.
Face mask rule has been imposed in Nay Pyi Taw townships and COVID-19 awareness has been raised via loudspeakers. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been in force, and surprise checks have been carried out on restaurants.
Discussions of Dr Chit Ko Han
Yangon Region’s Public Health Department Deputy Chief Dr Chit Ko Han said that about 6,000 people had been quarantined in Yangon. He added that quarantine spaces were arranged for 1,000 people who came back from the Rakhine State. Seven new quarantine centres have also been opened within five days, he said. Regional Ministers Daw Moe Moe Su Kyi, U Naing Ngan Lin and Daw Nilar Kyaw and health officials provided necessary assistance for quarantine centres, he said.
He said that volunteers, Yangon Region Red Cross members and the Students’ Union of the University of Medicine – 2 are volunteering for quarantine centres.
He also invited other organizations to provide assistance for quarantine centres in Yangon. The people who had contact with COVID-19 patients need to be immediately brought to quarantine centres, he said.
He pointed out that the numbers of volunteers and personal protective equipment (PPE) are limited, so all stakeholders need coordination in bringing suspected patients to quarantine centres.
He said that donations for prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 are not enough, so the regional government has been struggling for effectively arranging facilities for quarantine centres.
He also urged the quarantined people to obey the guidelines and instructions in their quarantine centres strictly. The food sent to quarantined people by their relatives and friends should not include alcohol and cigarettes, he said.
He said that there are significant challenges to control the COVID-19 in Yangon because the city has a large population. And he urged the residents in Yangon to stay home for two or three weeks in accordance with the necessary guidelines and instructions in order to control the spread of the disease.
He highlighted that he learnt that the ministry is planning to reduce the quarantine period to 14 days, and the period is enough according to international experiences. He concluded that if balanced efforts are made, the spread of the disease in Yangon can be controlled.
Concluding speech of the State Counsellor
She said she wanted to explain why it had to be 14-days so people could understand; the quarantine period was set for 14 days in the early days of the outbreak; the period was expanded to 21 for effective investigation; the period has been reduced to 14 days as the disease could not spread to other persons after this period and it does not mean it has turned into negative; according to this conclusion of the World Health Organization, people can go outside without causing problems; there would be more space at the quarantine centre if only the people under investigation were quarantined for only two weeks, while health workers and volunteers could manage the centres; there was over 90 per cent chance for the success of this plan; it will be officially announced soon.
Discussions on videoconferencing are published in state-owned newspapers and on television broadcasts; the discussions of Dr Chit Ko Han for Yangon will be published separately in the newspapers; these discussions will be broadcast on television for public information for possible public contribution; even if material supports could not be given, self-control will also be useful for this measure; problems should not be made at the quarantine centres by adhering to the rules; people are requested to help others with these discussions at least , even if other assistance could not be given; causing problems must be avoided.
COVID-19 could be put under control through collective strength; if collaborative efforts are made, people could be relieved from worries in three weeks; participation of people in Yangon is needed in controlling the COVID-19; it is very important for Yangon to contain this pandemic.
She also said that she trusted the collective strength of people; ‘People are the key’ is more than words, it is a practical idea; People are the key is very fundamental; it has been proven that public participation could lead to success in facing against any challenge; people are urged to participate not only for their well-being, but also for the interest of the country.—MNA (Translated by Kyaw Myaing, Aung Khin)