State Counsellor updates government measures against COVID-19 pandemic

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi gives a televised speech on containment of COVID-19, especially in Yangon, on 21 September 2020. Photo : MNA

I want to report about the COVID situation in Myanmar. As all of you know, the spread of COVID infections is, especially in Yangon. That is why we have issued strict “stay at home” rules and regulations in all townships in the Yangon region except Cocogyun. It is necessary to impose such restrictions. It is known to the majority of the people that the disease is spreading. Please don’t be too afraid because the disease is spreading. However, you all need to be very vigilant. I have said repeatedly about this matter. Why am I reporting to you about this? There is nothing wrong by being over cautious. What we are going to talk about are things you might have already read in the newspapers and seen on television. However, I am reporting to you about these matters because you might not have read the news or missed the TV broadcasts.

Furthermore, I want the people to understand how much importance our Union Government has given to this matter and how much effort is being put in for the health and security of the people to the best of our ability. I want everyone to know what is happening. At present, the spread of COVID infections has not tapered off in Yangon Region; this is not a cause to be disheartened. Why is this? If we make a projection of infection spread from the time of the first outbreak, it is not practical to expect the infection spread to lose momentum. The reason is that after the first person gets infected, the infection spreads to all those who came into contact with this person. Then the infections spread from these contacts to other persons. It has been quite some time when we began to issue strict rules and regulations. We issued these rules and regulations in March.

The people already know whether they followed these rules and regulations strictly or not. It is my understanding that at the moment, rules and regulations are being followed strictly. In Yangon, the movements of people have lessened compared to the previous period. It has come to my attention that the movements of people have decreased and that people are wearing masks. I am very happy to know this.

It would have been better if the people had acted this way in the first instance. However, there is no use to be remorseful about this at this time. That is why I would like to report briefly about the measures that have been undertaken by our Union Government, to the best of our ability, for all the people living in our country to be safe from the COVID disease.

First of all, we feel very grateful; indeed we welcome the fact that all the people in our country have all joined in and participated in our struggle. Among those are the public service personnel from the Ministry of Health and the volunteers helping at the quarantine centres. As time goes by these public service personnel get weary and tired. The people know already that among these personnel from the Ministry of Health, some of them got infected with the disease. Furthermore, the volunteers also get weary and tired. As these people get weary and tired, the number of people that need healthcare and protection also increases. That is why it comes as no surprise that as the number of people needing care and protection increase, sometimes the healthcare provided may not be as desired by the patients or to their satisfaction. For this, I want our people to be patient. Please be patient. Please have empathy. The reason is that these personnel, those from the Ministry of Health as well as those volunteers are exerting great efforts to the best of their abilities.

However, when they are confronted with a great number of patients, please be patient if there are shortcomings sometimes. Furthermore, with regard to these matters, I would like to seek your help to make the big problems smaller, and the small problems disappear; please try to placate the dissatisfactions and try to boost the morale. I want to make a request to all of you not to fan the flames or to make the small problems become bigger and to make the big problems unmanageable. This may be because of deep concerns. However, even if a person speaks out of concern, such a person needs to speak with discretion. Something you say with concern; is it really beneficial? I have spoken repeatedly about this matter. According to the Buddhist teachings, whatever you say should be truthful, beneficial and bearable to the listener. Some words are difficult to bear. Therefore, firstly the words should be truthful. Even if the words are true, will they be beneficial? I want all of you to be prudent and wise to consider whether certain words if spoken, would make the people more afraid; or whether such words would not make the people more vigilant or diligent.
We are not preventing freedom of expression among the public, but just reminding them to speak with responsibility. As I have mentioned before that I appreciate inclusive efforts, the government has formed a technical supporting team. It will be led by former health minister Professor Dr Kyaw Myint. The participation of such veterans and retired experts is well recognized. No one wants to take retirement when the country required their efforts. They consider how to take part in solving the problem immediately with their voluntary efforts, although they could live safely in their home as they are senior citizens. We are encouraged by their efforts. They are providing us with both physical and moral inspiration. We are helping people with practical assistance such as the establishment of hospitals by the Ministry of Health and Sports, quarantine centres jointly set up by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and the local governments, suppling these centres with volunteers, staff members and equipment, sufficient medicines and medical supplies to the hospitals. The Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry is working to make sure that we have sufficient financial resources.

The government has both short term and long term views in relation to COVID-19. We could face difficulties in our economy in the post the pandemic period. People might have noticed the spread of pandemic across the world. Even the countries with most economic progress and the nations with the most developed economies have suffered the impacts of COVID-19. However, we have made preparations so that our people will suffer the least impact. For example, in the general surplus fund, the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry has set over 1,000 billion kyats for aid in disaster management. The fund is related to the COVID-19. However, the fund was planned just for measures against COVID-19, not for other natural disasters. There is a separate fund for natural disasters. Over 1,000 billion kyats was allocated to tackle the impact of COVID and the needs in this issue. This message is just to inform the public about the preparations of our Union Government and not to have serious worry. However, it doesn’t mean not to treat it with seriousness. Due to the magnitude of our carelessness, we have to exert more efforts in this problem. We will have to try our best to overcome the consequences.

The directives of our Union Government are basically not too much in this issue, even for individuals. The guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Sports include wearing face masks, washing hands at least 20 seconds, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, staying apart from others in unavoidable gatherings and staying at least 6-ft from each other. Adherence to these rules and practising healthcare guidelines would help in the control of COVID-19.

I have no doubt to overcome it immediately or gradually. However, it should be contained immediately for the relief of our country and people in hoping for a return to normality. There might be some questions of how long the pandemic would spread and what we need to prepare for it.

These are the questions of our government, as well as myself, all the time. Some countries are making strenuous efforts to produce medicines for COVID, while some countries are working for producing its vaccine. Some countries are focusing on the production of both medicines and vaccines.

Although our country has no capacity to produce the vaccine, we have prepared for getting it as soon as it has been produced. The Ministry of International Cooperation and the Ministry of Health and Sports are discussing with the diplomats from the countries which are trying to produce the medicines and vaccines to get these medical supplies. The government will also use vaccines or medicines for the people with the approval of the World Health Organization. Therefore, we all need to focus on containment of COVID infection spread in Yangon. Every person in Yangon needs to take care of health and not to be infected with the COVID. If someone is not infected, it will not transmit to others. Healthcare practice of someone means protecting others from the pandemic. Yangon people don’t need to feel depressed about the disease.

It is widely known that Yangon people are brave. Courage must be used in the right situation. I want to request people in Yangon to overcome COVID bravely. On behalf of the government and the people, I am also grateful to the Yangon government, staff members, volunteers, civil society organizations and other supporters. It is not just the words. We will provide the possible assistance to the staff members with sufficient protective gears and comfortable accommodations.

The outbreak of COVID has been for over six months or half a year. Our people have become tired during this period. But we would be satisfied with our tiredness in the future when we have gained success after our strenuous struggle. I would like to conclude by saying that our understanding that victory was achieved through our collaborative efforts would turn into a great strength for us. May all people be healthy and comply with the rules and regulations. (Translated by Kyaw Myaing, Aung Khin)

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