Myanmar floods, coup, complicate growing COVID-19 outbreak

Flooding in Myanmar has displaced hundreds of people, residents said on Tuesday, adding to the misery of a nation struggling against a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak while living through the chaos created by a military coup in February.

Heavy downpours since the weekend caused
flooding in several areas, forcing healthcare
workers to move COVID-19 patients through
drenched streets and alleys in search of
someplace drier.

“Hundreds of houses are submerged in water
and only their roofs can be seen, Pyae Sone, a
social worker in Hlaingbwe in Kayin State said by telephone. “COVID is spreading in the town. There are so many people who have lost their sense of smell and many who are sick, it’s not clear if it’s COVID or seasonal flu.

Volunteers and medical workers trundled
bedridden patients, still hooked up to oxygen
tanks, over murky flood waters in the Kayin town of Myawaddy, showed. About 500 residential areas along the Thai border were affected, displacing hundreds of people, the group said. Bo Bo Win, the head of a charity in the town of Mawlamyine, 120 km (75 miles) away, said at least another 500 people there had also suffered in the floods.

“These floods swamping large areas of eastern
Myanmar are the worst in some places for many years and they are causing further misery for people already suffering as COVID-19 surges across the country,” said Joy Singhal, Head of Myanmar Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The military has struggled to keep control since taking power in a February coup that triggered nationwide protests, strikes and fighting on multiple fronts in border regions as civilians and ethnic armed groups took up arms against the junta. Angered by doctors’ support for anti-junta protests, Myanmar’s military has also arrested several doctors treating COVID-19 patients independently.

He said the IFRC was urgently securing more
relief supplies to support thousands of people at risk from further floods. Infections in Myanmar have surged since June, with 4,630 cases and 396 deaths reported on Monday. Medics and funeral services put the toll far higher.

“The U.N. must act immediately to halt the
military junta’s attacks, harassment, and
detentions in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis,”
Thomas Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur on
human rights in Myanmar, said in a statement, in which he called for a “COVID ceasefire” to tackle the crisis



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