Inside Myanmar clinic fighting new wave of Covid

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Kalay (Myanmar) (AFP)

In a clinic in a remote Myanmar town, some of the few doctors still working after the coup emptied hospitals are fighting to keep their Covid-19 patients alive as the virus reappears.

Infections are skyrocketing in Myanmar, with the state’s board – as the military junta calls itself – reporting more than 4,000 cases on Thursday, in a crisis exacerbated by a shortage of essential medical equipment.

AFP footage filmed inside a clinic in the northwestern town of Kalay showed patients slumped in makeshift beds with oxygen cartridges at their feet.

A man gasped, his head tilted as he struggled to answer a doctor’s questions.

“Patient services have collapsed,” Dr Than Bil Luai, director of Wesley Hospital, told AFP.

“There are a lot of hospitals, operating theaters, laboratories … but there are not enough medical staff working.”

“This health care system has become useless.

Myanmar doctors have been at the forefront of a national civil disobedience movement that has drawn thousands of government officials and crippled the economy.

Many people affected by the coronavirus are also avoiding military hospitals due to mistrust of the junta, with relatives instead joining long lines across the country to try their luck for the bottles of oxygen.

“Before the coup, prevention against Covid-19 was good and the government often posted notices and announcements,” said Ca Meng, who returned to Kalay from Yangon when her mother contracted the virus.

“But after the coup, we are afraid of everything and we did not pay much attention to the Covid-19 … but suddenly it came back,” she said.

“And now there is no more prevention.”

This week, the junta called on doctors and nurses to volunteer for the anti-Covid effort, admitting it faced “difficulties” in controlling the outbreak.

Dozens of blue oxygen cylinders waiting to be filled stretched along a street in Kalay, a town of 130,000 people, with steep hills to the east and west.

An ambulance with “Covid-19” written on a window in yellow letters passed residents waiting next to them, its siren blaring, two figures in white danger suits hanging from the door.

For those who cannot leave home because of illness, volunteers are mobilizing to help.

A volunteer from a local charity who gave his name as John said he regularly lined up to fill up oxygen cylinders for those who couldn’t leave the house and that he was helping to do races.

“I am upset when there is no oxygen when the patient needs it,” he said.

“This third wave is quite different. I’m a little scared.”

On the outskirts of town, a team unloaded a coffin in a cemetery of white Christian crosses standing out against the deep green of the hills.

A figure in a white hazmat suit standing over the coffin read a book as the grieving person sat by the coffin and cried.

“We have to take care of ourselves and our families,” said Ca Meng, whose mother later died of the virus.

“Otherwise, it will be the extermination of our people.


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