Aid workers fear Covid-19 outbreak among elderly people displaced by fighting in Shan State 

Dozens of elderly people who are staying in temporary shelters at monasteries in southern Shan State after fighting between two local armed groups broke out in early June are at risk of a Covid-19 outbreak, two aid workers have said. 

The displaced people were among about 900 who fled from the Mong Khun village tract for safety in Wan Hway Long village when the armed wings of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) began fighting. 

The clashes have now stopped and the younger adult villagers have returned home, but about 100 elderly people and young children stayed behind because it would be difficult for them to flee again if there was more fighting. 

Those left behind need personal protective equipment including masks and hand sanitizer to prevent an outbreak of the virus, said an aid worker on condition of anonymity. 

“We need to do awareness raising about Covid-19 prevention and we need medicines and protective equipment,” the aid worker said. “There will be a huge problem if there is an outbreak at such a place because the camps have many elderly people.” 

Some of the displaced people aged between 60 and 70 have survived strokes, the aid worker added. 

Twelve people tested positive for Covid-19 this month in the town of Mong Kung, about 20 miles from the monasteries, and individual donors from the town have been barred from entering the shelters, according to another aid worker.

The junta’s ministry of health said there were 537 positive cases and 12 fatalities in Shan State on Thursday, but the official tally is widely distrusted and locals estimate that the actual number is much higher. 

The RCSS and SSPP are fighting because of a territorial dispute over the Loi Hun mountain range in Mong Kung Township. 

While the clashes have stopped in southern Shan State, the two groups fought near Nawng An village in Hsipaw Township in the north on Thursday. 

The SSPP says it plans to inoculate 500,000 people against Covid-19 in its territory using vaccines from China. 

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