He Yongjie , Xie Mulan, Li Gen
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Myanmar government has made unremitting efforts to control the epidemic in terms of import prevention, non-proliferation and free medical care. As one of the underdeveloped countries in the world, Myanmar’s epidemic prevention efforts have been appreciated and recognized by the international community, and it once became a model for developing countries in fighting the epidemic. However, since the last month, the outbreak in Myanmar has shown a “rebound” trend, and the number of confirmed cases in the country is rising, and it may even become the “epicenter” of the next outbreak in Southeast Asia. Why did the epidemic suddenly “rebound” in Myanmar when the situation is good? How will the outbreak in Myanmar develop?
The COVID-19 situation not optimistic
First of all, from the data of the confirmed diagnosis in Myanmar, according to the data of the Ministry of Health of Myanmar, from March 23 to 8 am on September 12, a total of 2,422 cases were confirmed in Myanmar, 625 cases were cured, and 14 cases died. Among the 14 provinces and states in Myanmar, Rakhine State and Yangon have the most severe epidemics. In Naypyidaw, the capital of strict prevention, there have been new confirmed cases in recent days.
Secondly, in terms of time, Myanmar’s first imported case occurred on March 23; local confirmed cases began to appear on March 26; since April, the local confirmed cases in Myanmar have peaked, and various states have adopted strict epidemic prevention measures. Measures: The outbreak in Myanmar gradually slowed down in early May, but due to Myanmar’s eagerness to rescue people trapped abroad, the number of imported cases from abroad gradually increased. Since the new diagnosis in Rakhine State on August 16, confirmed cases in Myanmar have increased exponentially.
At present, the number of newly confirmed cases in Myanmar is increasing, and the source of infection is unknown. It is difficult to check close contacts, and the anti-epidemic situation is more severe. Overall, from the perspective of the development of the epidemic in Myanmar, the situation may get worse, and the development of the epidemic is gradually approaching China from south to north. This time, the “rebound” of the outbreak in Myanmar has brought huge challenges to the epidemic prevention of neighboring countries.
Why the COVID-19 epidemic suddenly “bounce”?
First, the level of medical and health care is low. As a developing country, due to the long-term civil war, coupled with the uneven economic development, people’s lives are relatively poor, these have restricted the development of Myanmar’s medical and health standards, and people’s health is difficult to be effectively guaranteed. This time, the outbreak of the epidemic has brought great challenges to Myanmar’s medical and health system. The level of medical and health care, testing capabilities, and the reserve of medical supplies are far from meeting the requirements. The lack of an epidemic tracking mechanism, the inability to track close contacts, and the source of infection is still unclear. All these have buried the second outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in Myanmar.
Third, the border control is not strict. The phenomenon of smuggling has always existed in the border areas of Myanmar due to loopholes in control and control, and it has become more and more serious during the epidemic. In particular, Myanmar is close to India and Bangladesh, where the number of confirmed cases has been increasing. It is understood that there are 88 legal and illegal passages at the border of Sagaing Province to India. When the outbreak in Myanmar was initially relieved, the Sagaing government did not strengthen the control of all passages, and people smuggled in and out almost every day. Since August 16, after new imported cases in Rakhine State, the epidemic has spread rapidly in Myanmar.
Finally, the public’s awareness of protection is weak. When the epidemic in Myanmar stabilized, most people relaxed their vigilance against the epidemic, and large-scale gatherings were more common. Especially in some areas, due to civil wars and network technology restrictions, it is difficult for the public to obtain the latest news of the epidemic in time. In addition, during the epidemic, there were many rumors, and most people would rather believe the gossip than the official announcements, which brought huge challenges to Myanmar’s epidemic prevention.
In short, given the current development of the epidemic in Myanmar, the epidemic may continue to deteriorate. The long-term blockade is also a major test for Myanmar’s domestic stability. Some ethnic groups may take this opportunity to launch war. More importantly, the epidemic may affect Myanmar’s general elections this year. State Counselor Du Aung San Suu Kyi recently apologized for the epidemic. Whether the China Democratic League can govern again depends on the control of the epidemic. As Myanmar has so many bordering countries, if measures are not taken to control it in time, it may cause panic in neighboring countries. At present, Southeast Asian countries are facing the danger of a second outbreak of the epidemic. No country can stand alone. Only by uniting and working together to fight the epidemic is the right way.
The Three authors are scholars at Yunnan University Institute of International Relations,China.