The increase in the number of cases in the west of the country quickly spread elsewhere and the number of infections doubled every week.
Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, has rapidly built new quarantine centers as it hurries to contain the commercial hub’s first significant coronavirus outbreak, with overworked medical staff fearing thousands of more cases to come.
As of Sunday, the country has reported at least 10,000 infections and at least 200 deaths related to the pandemic.
The nation of Southeast Asia has one of the most impoverished health systems in the world, but until recently it was relatively free from the coronavirus.
Last month there were fewer than 400 total confirmed cases nationwide and only six deaths from the disease.
But the growing number of cases in western Myanmar quickly spread elsewhere, and the number of infections doubled every week.
Yangon has seen an overwhelming majority of patients and is now again under close surveillance that many fear will devastate the livelihoods of the city’s poorest inhabitants.
About 6,000 people were quarantined in the city, and state media reported Saturday that seven new structures were built to isolate another 1,000 people.
“We estimate there may be 10,000 more suspected cases out there,” said Ye Nyi Nyi Htut, a doctor at a city clinic.
Medical personnel around Yangon were “exhausted,” he added.
Residents have been told to stay home unless they work in some key industries or buy food or medical supplies.
Domestic travel outside the city is prohibited and the ban on international commercial flights has been extended until the end of October.
“Undergo medical tests”
Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has placed herself at the center and center of the nation’s fight against the disease.
In a speech to the nation on Friday, he urged the country to ignore the spread of false rumors and “ridiculous” treatment.
“Don’t believe that certain foods or drinks can alleviate the disease,” he said. “Get medical examinations in hospitals.”
A leaked letter this week showed that the government was even preparing to “distribute staple food” to the city’s seven million people, sowing fears that an even tougher blockade could be on the cards.
But Suu Kyi’s spokesperson Zaw Htay dismissed this possibility, telling reporters Friday that authorities were only making contingency plans for the worst-case scenario.
Thousands of people in Yangon garner a hard-to-sell life as street vendors, and some have ignored the blockade to continue plying their trade, insisting that they need money to feed their families.
“We only have two options: stay home and die or sell things on the street and die. I am choosing the latter, “Cho Cho Mar, 39, told AFP news agency.
General practitioner Myint Oo said that although the infections were spreading rapidly, the death rate from the current outbreak was still low.
“It’s not yet a critical situation,” he said.
The government has insisted that national elections take place as scheduled on 8 November.