The novel coronavirus overlooked Myanmar for much of the first six months of the worldwide pandemic. Not so anymore.

Cases have been mounting since August in the Southeast Asian country of about 54 million people. As part of the government’s containment strategy, the state has ordered any coronavirus patients and their contacts to be quarantined. That proved feasible when caseloads were low, but now the government is housing more than 45,000 people, Reuters reported Thursday.

That heavy burden is pushing some health care and quarantine centers close to collapse, public health experts are warning.

Myanmar reported its highest one-day increase in cases Thursday, recording more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases. In total, the country has confirmed more than 8,300 infections. Neighboring Thailand, in comparison, has nearly 70 million people and less than half the number of cases.

After weeks of no local transmission, infections began to climb in Myanmar in mid-August, after an outbreak in the restive western Rakhine state spread around the country. Tensions were already high in Rakhine, home to Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim community. While nearly 1 million Rohingya have fled to crowded camps in neighboring Bangladesh to escape decades of violence, around 128,000 live in camps for displaced people in Rakhine. Human rights groups have warned that this puts people at greater risk of contracting the virus.

The Washington Post


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