Junta seeks international help

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus ride a motorcycle past a Health Ministry public information campaign billboard about proper hand washing in Shwe Pyi Thar township in Yangon, Myanmar Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo)

JUNTA authorities are seeking help from the international community to tackle the coronavirus, state media said, as the impoverished country looks beyond ally China in its struggle to beat back a new wave.

The nation has been in turmoil since the military took power in February, with many hospitals ill-equipped to cope with a surging caseload after many medical staff walked out in protest over the coup that ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Stay-at-home orders affecting millions have failed to halt the surge, with crematoriums working at capacity and volunteers working to bring out the bodies of people who have died in their homes.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing told a “coordination meeting to beef up cooperation with the international community” that Myanmar should seek money from a Covid-19 response fund set up by Asean.

Efforts were being made to work with Asean “and friendly countries”, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported yesterday without giving details.

Just under 5,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported yesterday – up from around 50 per day in early May – but analysts say the real toll is likely much higher.

Around 1.75 million people have so far been vaccinated according to the State Administration Council – as the junta dubs itself – out of a population of 54 million.

Last week, a batch of donated Sinopharm doses arrived from China, the junta said, but they would be prioritised for those living along the China-Myanmar border.China has also supplied more than 10,000 shots to a rebel group operating near its southern frontier in Myanmar, as Beijing seeks to halt an influx of cases from the coup-wracked country.

The junta had ordered a total of four million vaccine doses from China, it said earlier this month, and Beijing would donate a further two million.

A shipment of 1.5 million doses arrived from India earlier this year.

There have been desperate efforts by people to find oxygen in many parts of the country.

The Myanmar Now news portal, citing witnesses, reported that at least eight people died in a Yangon hospital at the weekend after a piped oxygen system failed.

Last week, prisoners in Yangon staged a protest over what activists said was a major Covid-19 outbreak in the colonial-era Insein jail, where many pro-democracy protesters are being held.

Efforts to tackle the outbreak have been further hampered by some of the worst flooding in years in eastern Myanmar.

The military has appeared wary of outside help in past disasters, particularly if it believes strings are attached, forcing Myanmar’s people to help each other, though a previous junta did allow in aid via Asean after the devastating cyclone Nargis struck in 2008.

The military-appointed election commission this week officially annulled the November 2020 election results, saying the vote was not in line with the constitution and electoral laws, and was not “free and fair”, army-run MRTV network reported. — Agencies

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