Government’s 6m masks ‘not enough’ to tackle Covid-19 crisis

The government has distributed six million masks to healthcare workers and people in quarantined areas and has another 3.9 million to hand out, the health ministry has said.

“We have arranged to distribute the masks among the public and volunteers at quarantine sites,” health ministry spokesperson Dr Thar Tun Kyaw told Myanmar Now.

Despite the drive, retail prices for face masks have increased sharply from 50 kyat to up to 1,000 kyat, while care workers are still forced to buy their own or rely on donations.

“It’s not enough,” said Nan Thazin, a women’s health and social worker at the Myaing Gyi Ngu clinic in Hlaingbwe, Karen state, which recently received 270 masks from the government.

The masks have to go around among 30 people at a nearby quarantine site as well as medical staff at another clinic and four health department offices, she told Myanmar Now.

“We use about 50 masks a day at the quarantine site,” she said, adding that the clinic was relying on private donors to get the masks it needs. “We would not be doing well without donations,” she said.

Before the donations, healthcare workers there had to pay for masks themselves. They are now trying to ration them by using just one per day, she added.

Dr Thar Tun Kyaw told Myanmar Now in an interview Sunday that Myanmar has enough manpower, equipment and medicine to tackle the crisis.

At the request of the health ministry, two factories in Bago are preparing to produce surgical masks, but not until after the Thingyan holiday.

The regional government is negotiating with factories at Yangon’s Shwe Lin Pan industrial zone to encourage them to make masks, officers at the industrial zone said.

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