Myanmar response to COVID-19 Outbreak
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Author: Dr Zaw Wai Soe
Dr Zaw Wai Soe, has documented the approach Myanmar has taken towards COVID-19, and documented key actions taken during the preparation and response phases, while highlighting any issues encountered and question that we do and do not yet have the answers to.
Since the start of January 2020, the principle aims for COVID-19 was a containment strategy. Starting with temperature checks at Yangon & Mandalay International Airports. Then followed by the Myanmar-China border being closed for one month from 31 March. Continued with the Myanmar-Thailand border closing for one month, but with International Flights continuing up to 9 April, from Europe, UK, USA, Italy. When people arrived back from abroad they were sent to a Quarantine Facility (dedicated building or hotel) for 14 Days (No Home Quarantine). There was also an increase in public education on handwashing, face masks, and social distancing. There were plans for lockdown but only partial lockdown in cities. Hospitals were late to prepare for the pandemic.
Hospitals were beginning to prepare for the pandemic (WHO), with all general hospitals receiving PUI patients and swabs taken. To help the impact of a high number of COVID patients coming into hospitals, elective surgeries were stopped and the OPD number was reduced. There was now more space for COVID patients and designated hospitals were set up. In Yangon, the hospitals set up were Waibargi Hospital, South Okkalapa Hospital, and Phaung gyi COVID medical center and In Mandalay, the Kandaw nadi Hospital.
There are a number of hospital issues due to there not being enough preparation that was required. These included having to create other spaces for PUI patients, not having enough respiratory resuscitation devices, or enough PPE and other infection control equipment. The hot weather and PPE added to the difficulty of helping patients and others. Confirmed patient transport, health care staff affairs, and changing clinical guidelines. The level of care was greatly reduced in non-COVID cases, but fortunately, patient care is still under control.
Things we still don’t know
The number of confirmed cases is lower compared with other regional countries. Is this because of:
- A smaller number of testing
- Less international flights
- Geography and weather
- Participation of public or herd immunity
Hospitals are still being attended but with a small number of respiratory illnesses. As time goes on it may be more difficult when the rainy season comes (Local influenza outbreak, Dengue fever outbreak soon).
What we would like to know
- What will happen when re-opening ordinary routine health care together with COVID management
- The principles of elective surgeries during COVID and post-COVID era.
- The possibility of a COVID vaccine and availability to developing countries.
- The role of rapid test kits and reliability.
- How will the health care system withstand against COVID attack for a long period of time?
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