Be Aware of and Protect Against the Risks of COVID-19’s Third Wave

FOR the question of what is now the more crucial matter than any other in the world, the answer would be to succeed in overcoming the COVID-19 crisis as early as possible. At present, all countries putting their differences aside are now joining hands and working together to overcome the crisis. Myanmar the first case of COVID-19 was found in Myanmar on 23 March 2020. There were 143,318 COVID-19 infected patients in total in the first and second waves of the deadly pandemic and 140,102 out of them recovered. 97.7 per cent of the patients recovered from the COVID-19 after having immunity against the virus.

In the Third Wave started from 27-5- 2021 in Myanmar, up to 15 July, there were 65,766 confirmed cases out of the 300,533 tests and the deaths reached 1,048. If the death toll of the COVID-19 is calculated in percentage, it accounted for 3.7 per cent in the First Wave (nearly five months), 2.2 per cent in the Second Wave (over nine months) and 1.59 per cent in the Third Wave (over one and a half month). According to the current figures, the new variant of the virus has a high rate of infection and accordingly, the death toll is likely to increase.

Why is its infection rate so high?

If it is questioned why the infection rate of the COVID-19 third wave is so high, the simple answer would be due to its new mutations of the virus. The variants of the virus found in Myanmar are Delta Strain and Alpha Strain which include in the category ‘variant of concern’. Although the reproduction or R0 number for the COVID-19 virus is between 2.4 and 2.6, the R0 numbers of Alpha and Delta are from 4 to 5 and from 5 to 8 respectively. To be clear, if the R0 is 2, its infection rate multiplies from 1 to 2, then 2 to 4, 4 to 8 and then 8 to 16 persons. Most Asian countries including neighbours of Myanmar are witnessing the recorded high infection rate due to the new variant of Delta-coronavirus.

People in Myanmar were also heedless of the risks of COVID-19 in the time of political change and considerably weak in following the precaution rules. From the perspective of pandemic protection, the rally of thousands of people is totally unacceptable. Moreover, the healthcare services weakened by the CDM campaigns also limited the preventive activities of COVID-19 infections.

COVID-19 control, prevention and treatment activities in the time of State Administration Council

As the State Administration Council had anticipated the nature of coronavirus and its possible infections, the COVID-19 prevention appears as the second task of its Five-Point Road Map. The Council also made necessary preparations using the lessons learnt from the situations of the previous COVID-19 outbreak.

The State Administration Council is using various means by integrating all available powers for the COVID-19 control, prevention and treatment activities which are prompt to be carried out. For the nationwide emergency responses, the State Administration Council has made the following preparations to accommodate COVID-19 infected patients: 
• 933 quarantine centres (civilian) (44,784 patients) 
• 182 centres for infected patients (civilian) (10,239 patients) 
• 338 treatment centres (civilian) (16,452 patients) Total: 1,453 centres (71,475 patients)
• 1,193 quarantine centres (Tatmadaw)
(32,104 patients)
• 23 centres for infected patients (Tatmadaw) (2,998 patients)
• 61 treatment centres (Tatmadaw)
(3,870 patients)
Total: 1,278 centres (38,972 patients)

It is also observed that preparations have also been made to turn the indoor sports halls, schools and cyclone shelters as well from 74 townships included in the Stay-at-Home programme into quarantine centres in case of emergency need.

Tatmadaw has rendered assistance in pandemic prevention and treatment activities in the past and now is intensifying utmost efforts to assist in the area. As human resource contribution, 5,818 military health workers including 339 medical specialists have been exclusively assigned to carry out COVID-19 treatment activities and they are now joining hands and working together with civilian health workers. 19,145 doctors and health staff of good civil servants who do not participate in CDM are reportedly serving in the COVID-19 treatment activities. Regarding the transport, 1,080 civilianused ambulances and 100 military-used ambulances are in place. Moreover, for the transport of preventive and treatment equipment, military aircraft are also being used as needed.

Daily integrated activities of the Myanmar Police Force, departmental officials, civil philanthropic associations, and volunteers can also be seen across the country such as waging mask-wearing campaigns, distributing free masks, and awareness pamphlets. Although the previous administration led by NLD had difficulties distributing about sixty thousand free masks to the public, the State Administration Council had distributed about 12 million free masks to people just in a single month of June. Plans are also underway to distribute over 10 million masks to the public and another 5 million masks to health workers per month. The government has allowed an unlimited budget for defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and also bought three RT-PCR system machines which can undergo 140 tests within one and half hours from Russia.

So far, over 3.37 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Myanmar. COVID-19 vaccines have also been purchased from India and Russia. Myanmar has already agreed with Russia to buy 2 million doses of vaccines and another 5 million with China. The vaccines will arrive in Myanmar in July.

Plans are underway to jointly produce COVID-19 vaccines with Russia and a Russian observatory team will arrive in Myanmar soon. Moreover, the government is also planning to produce vaccines in the Ready to Fill Bulk (RTF) system cooperating with China and has already discussed with the officials from the producing company.

Pandemic should not be politicalized

Despite the various efforts to control and contain the COVID-19 infections, internal/external news agencies and social media pages are incorrectly comparing the situations of the COVID19’s third wave with of first and second waves.

The disgusting thing is some people are taking political advantage of the pandemic while people are facing health difficulties with great worries. It can be sadly seen that they even launched terror attacks targeting the COVID-19 health checking places and innocent civilian volunteers besides spreading various misinformation to harass the COVID-19 prevention and treatment activities.

Moreover, with an intent to raise the prices of health-related items in the markets and to create public panics, they even spread a fake government statement on social media saying that the government stopped importing COVID-19 preventive gears and oxygens. Such acts are the foolish political infamies of political extremists intentionally to disrupt the State Administration Council. The political extremists are trying to gain political advantages by using the health predicaments of people. During the time of pandemic when we all should join hands to overcome it, using the surge of COVID-19 infection as a political attack is apparently an awful and unacceptable move.

Using the COVID-19 disease as a political weapon, spreading misinformation on social media and other acts intentionally to worsen the infections are directly threatening the lives of people. Therefore, such acts amount to ‘bioterrorism’. Hence, it is very important for people not to be deceived in such fake news and misinformation.

The root causes of the current oxygen problem are the anxieties and worries of people provoked by the surge of the infection and the change of the quarantine system. According to the nature of the pandemic, most infected people have mild common symptoms and recover in a certain period of time. It is serious only for the elderly and the people who have other serious health problems. Using oxygen is a matter to be decided by the medical experts even for patients with serious symptoms.

However, due to anxieties and worries, people buy and collect oxygen cylinders. The oxygen demands immediately rise as an impact of misinformation on social media leading to a situation in which oxygen cannot reach the people who really need it in time. It is found out that the percentage of oxygen demands is considerably higher than the percentage of infected patients who really need oxygen supply.

Although the oxygen production capacity is apparently mounted to the real need on the ground, people are worry and anxious that oxygen is insufficient because the unscrupulous persons are doing sabotages using the surge of COVID-19 infection as a political scandal. Therefore, the State Administration Council is taking necessary measures to fulfil the requirements of oxygen by doing detailed calculations on the conditions of infected patients, patients who really need oxygen support, the capacity of oxygen production, the possible oxygen needs.

In a bid to fulfil the oxygen requirement of people in time, an oxygen plant that has the capacity of producing 1,440 oxygen cylinders per day is being built targeting to be finished within a month. The Ministry of Commerce is also granting permits for importing COVID-19 prevention medicines and related materials in a timely manner. Oxygen Concentrators can be imported without applying for FDA approval and import licence. Therefore, at present, oxygen liquid and oxygen cylinders are being imported via the border checkpoints of China and Thailand and distributed to the places in need. Moreover, it can be seen that Tatmadaw and Civilian factories has increased oxygen production and also installed additional plants.

Another point is the changes in the quarantine system due to the sudden surge of infection and a limited number of health workers. As the first step, those who had close contact with COVID-19 patients are to separately live in their homes. As the second step, the COVID-19 confirmed patients are placed at the relevant public hospitals and COVID-19 treatment centres for medical treatment. For the final step, emergency patients with serious symptoms are provided special medical treatments at hospitals. Hence, positive patients are being rejected by hospitals and sent back home is just misinformation. The locations of treatment are decided, depending on the seriousness of the symptoms. The management system is formulated in line with international standards and norms to avoid unnecessary burdens on treatment activities.

Cooperation of People is crucial

Medical experts remarked that the current surge of COVID-19 infections in Myanmar is due to the nature of the new variant of the virus coinciding with the time when people became heedless of the pandemic. Hence, to contain and reduce the infection rate in Myanmar cannot be succeeded individually because it is a matter that requires the integrated efforts of all associations and national people inside the nation. That is the certain matter to be tackled with awareness and consciousness for the entire nation instead of assuming as the matter of mine, my family, my community and township.

All people must abide by the ways of prevention against COVID-19 without fail. Particularly, systematically wear masks whenever go outside, take adequate distance from each other as much as they can (at least six feet), avoid the crowds and do not go outside unnecessarily. That is also important to have healthy foods that would increase immunes, to take sound rest and take physical exercise at least 30 minutes daily. Concerned officials are fully taking necessary measures to control and contain the infections and proving healthcare services.

The instigations covered with political colours to give rise to misconceptions among people pose as the obstacles in the attempts to repeal and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, seeing the integrated efforts of non-CDM doctors, health workers and doctors from other private hospitals/clinics cooperating in unity to repeal the Third Wave of the pandemic without any personal interests is really heart-touching and honourable. Even some senior medical experts are volunteering for COVID-19 prevention activities although that is not their area of the expert.

To draw a conclusion, it is not a time of political differentiation and fighting and only if the government and people cooperate in COVID-19 control, prevention and treatments activities assuming as a national duty by joining hearts and hands, we can successfully overcome and defeat the deadly pandemic.