State Counsellor’s report to people about latest situation regarding outbreak of COVID-19 in Rakhine State

My fellow Union citizens of Myanmar,
When matters important for our country happen, our Government believes that the most effective way is to report to the people and cooperate with the people. I am reporting based on this belief. As everyone knows, beginning from last week, the infection spread of COVID-19 in Sittway has been very rapid. Because of the rapid infection spread, anxieties and concerns have risen. I want you all to see this as a challenge. A challenge is not something to be feared. A challenge is something to be overcome. I believe that we can overcome this challenge as one of the efforts of the State. Because of the infection spread in Sittway, we had to impose restrictions to make sure that people from Sittway do not go out of Rakhine State. It is not because we wanted to impose controls and restrictions. We intend to provide protection. In providing protection, we are protecting the whole country as well. We are also protecting the people in Sittway as well as people in Northern Rakhine.
How are we providing protection? We have made arrangements to provide special healthcare and support to Sittway and related areas. The Ministry of Health and Sports has made very careful arrangements. We will conduct health checkups on people in Sittway and other townships which might be impacted by the infection spread. We will also provide medical treatment. We will do all that is necessary. We have already adopted special programmes. We will announce in the government newspapers the kind of plans made by the Ministry of Health and Sports. It is to gain public trust by keeping the people informed. For us to succeed in this matter, efforts are to be made not only in Sittway and in Rakhine state. It is a matter for the whole Union. As I have said before, I want all of you to look at this matter as a national effort. We can succeed only if all of us join in and work together. I believe we will succeed.
At this time, some people in Rakhine State wish to leave the state. They think they will have more safety outside of the state. Once you are infected, it does not matter where you go, the infection will be carried by you. If you remain in Rakhine State; remain within Sittway, and you remain in the infected area, if you are infected, it would be quicker to detect the virus. Treatment could be given. The COVID virus is not incurable. The earlier this virus is detected, the more effective is the treatment. At the present moment, the borders between states and regions have been closed. The reason we do not want people from Sittway and from Rakhine State to go out to other areas is that we do not want the virus to spread. All respective regions and states will have to participate effectively in these closures. Closures mean giving protection. We want you to think of this as protective measures.
In doing thus, we need to be very vigilant. I have said this repeatedly. There is no such thing as being too vigilant. Compassion can go overboard. If we let someone go because we feel compassion for this person, the infection could spread all over the country. We are in such a situation. That is why we have to do our work with great care and vigilance. I have learnt that our citizens in Yangon have started to wear their masks again. This is in a way producing excellent results. Only now some people realize to be vigilant. I want Yangon to be extremely careful. I have estimated that the infection spread happened from 16 August; after that, I have heard that there were some people who went from Sittway to Yangon by plane. If that type of incident has occurred, please contact the nearest health centre. After contacting this, please participate in a tracking interview where you will be asked where you have been and where you have travelled. If needed, they will give you medical treatment immediately.
People in the neighbourhood also need to report if you learn that some people or friends from next-door neighbours and other streets have returned in this manner. It is not gossiping. It is not saying falsehoods with malicious intent. I want you all to understand that this is doing something that needs to be done. Rakhine State is a big challenge for the whole country. We had to experience a great deal of external pressures because of events that occurred in Rakhine State. In our efforts to solve the problems in Rakhine State, instead of effective cooperation and providing assistance, there has been too much criticism and pressures. We don’t need to become disheartened because of these things. We can confront all these things with the collective strength of our people. In solving the problems of our country, there has been no discrimination with respect to religion or race. All our Union citizens should show that they have the desire to protect and take care of all those who are living within the borders of our Union.
However, having such a desire is not enough. We need to show with actions. We need to show that we can do it. There is one very adorable custom of our Union citizens. As soon as they learnt about the disease outbreak in Rakhine State, one group of volunteers has now arrived there. One group of volunteers is now in Rakhine State to provide medical assistance and give necessary help. They are now in Sittway providing assistance.

We have also invited other volunteer groups. We have not only invited them, but our Union Government will also pay all costs with respect to the medical assistance given by volunteer groups in Rakhine State. I feel very thankful to these volunteer groups. I am also very grateful to all our Union citizens who have donated various kinds of medicines and health-related materials. If we continue working like this, we will be able to overcome this challenge. Of course, we need to be very vigilant. We have a lot of work on our hands.
The Ministry of Health and Sports will issue guidelines. It’s not anything new, some of it has been implemented elsewhere. Staying at home, restrictions on travelling, putting on facemasks which are extremely important right now, washing hands or using hand sanitizers to cleanse your hands, refraining from going outside as much as possible, preventing large gatherings, and keeping at least 6 feet in distance, if possible, between one another. If each and every one of us follows these rules, then there is no reason for the virus to spread.
So, it is advised to follow these rules and guidelines. Doing so also uplifts the strength of the nation and also supports our stance on the global stage. There are different faiths and ethnicities in Rakhine State. These differences have led to acts of terrorism, turned into instability and pushed our entire nation into a level of embarrassment in the world.
I want everyone to see this as an opportunity to counter those claims and make things better. Please don’t treat the spread of the disease in Sittway with panic, but with the firm conviction that we will surely overcome these issues. The Ministry of Health and Sports finds the markets to be the primary source of the infection because close inspection of the community and lifestyle of the infected people show that markets are the highest cause of infectious disease.
So, be careful when you go to the market. As we have mentioned many times before, you must wear a mask, and the vendors need to wear gloves in addition to face coverings. Don’t make large groups, too. Despite the warnings, our people seem to have grown a bit lax as time passed on. You might have thought there is nothing wrong anymore, but I hope you realize now that is not the case. Some people are asking if this is the second wave of COVID-19. It is not, and it is the disease just spreading in Sittway.
We can all work together to prevent the surge of the second wave in our country. We will protect Rakhine State in addition to the other regions in our nation. Cooperation is key. We do not choose a faith nor an ethnicity in doing this. We shall give equal assistance to all the people living in this country. I wish for all citizens to develop this mindset and help each other.
Another thing we have to consider is a possible change in the genetics of this disease, from a medical perspective, as the reason for the disease to be spreading this quickly in Sittway. The answer is not clear yet, but we are trying to get to the bottom of this. If it does turn out to be accurate, there is no need to be alarmed. Follow our guidelines and be careful. It is only a consideration in our nation and other southeast Asian countries as well, and it’s not a 100-per cent certainty. The genetics of the coronavirus that arrived is not that serious, and that’s why there are remarks that it is not spreading that fast. But this is not to be taken as a fact yet, and it is merely an assumption.
It seems to be a slight variance in the genetics of this disease in Sittway. It could be making it spread faster as it most certainly is. But we have mentioned that we are capable of treating this. Treatment will be more effective if the disease is discovered early. Anyone who thinks they have been in close contact with people who have been infected should notify their nearest medical centres. Be careful of visiting strangers and report to the authorities as well.
We must be careful of people coming in from restricted regions. We have designated plans to make surprise inspections in Sittway, and I urge you to comply with it willingly. There is no issue in being tested, but it will be a significant problem if an infected person goes unchecked. We will give immediate treatment to everyone who tests positive. No one will be left out. We will give everyone equal treatment. So, don’t worry too much. The important thing is for us to work together. We must keep a calm head and follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Sports.
We will put these guidelines in our state-run newspapers again, and it will be disseminated through various media channels as well. The public needs to be mindful of and adhere to these instructions accordingly. May all citizens achieve the greatest gift of good health and find peace in your heart.
Thank you.

(Translated by Kyaw Myaing, Zaw Htet Oo)

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