No space to quarantine returnees from Thailand as Myanmar confirms fifth coronavirus case

Two more people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Myanmar to five, the health ministry announced Friday.

The new patients are a 69-year-old man in Yangon and a 33-year-old man in Mandalay. Both returned from abroad earlier this month, the ministry said.

The 69-year-old man flew to Yangon on March 14 after spending a month receiving treatment for nasal cancer in Australia. He also spent four days in Singapore on his way back. 

He became sick on March 18 with a cough and a sore throat and was admitted to Yangon General Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) a week later. He tested positive for the virus on Thursday. 

His son and a nephew, who were in close contact with him, have been sent to Waibargi Hospital for health monitoring and the rest of his family members are quarantined at home, said local administrator Zaw Win Tun. 

Authorities have disinfected the street in Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township where the patient’s apartment is located and no outsiders are allowed to enter the street, he added.

Health workers are now looking for the driver who drove him to Yangon General Hospital, he said.

The 33-year-old patient arrived in Yangon on March 19 from the United States on a Qatar Airlines flight and spent a night in Yangon’s South Okkalapa township. He travelled to Mandalay by bus the next day. He is Myanmar but has US citizenship. 

He has suffered coughing, sickness and fatigue since March 22 and was admitted to Mandalay General Hospital on March 25 before being transferred to Kandaw Nadi Hospital to be kept under observation as a potential coronavirus patient. 

After the ministry’s announcement a taxi driver contacted authorities to say he might have driven the man from the bus station in Mandalay to his apartment. His vehicle has been disinfected and he will be quarantined for two weeks at his house.

Residents in a building at the Mya Yee Nandar Housing Complex, where he stayed before being hospitalized, have been told not to go outside, according to local officials and health workers. The five-storey building was also disinfected. 

Six of his family members including two children and a woman in her 60s have been quarantined at the Nadi Myanmar Hotel in Mandalay. 

Health workers escort a 33-year-old patient’s family members to the Nadi Myanmar Hotel in Mandalay for health surveillance (Photo: Yan Moe Naing/ Myanmar Now)

Township administrators in Yangon region said Thursday that anyone who recently returned from overseas must report to their nearest government health facility to be inspected and quarantined.

The orders will be enforced till the end of April, the officials said in a statement. 

Anyone who violates the orders will be charged under the Penal Code, the 2013 Natural Disaster Management Law or by-laws or directives issued under the 1995 Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law, which carries a one-year prison sentence. 

No space to quarantine 

Meanwhile, thousands of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand have poured across the border in Myawaddy over the past few days after Thailand announced it would go into lockdown. 

Over 22,000 people crossed the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge-2 in Myawaddy between 21-25 March, according to local administrators in Myawaddy. The border is now closed. 

As there is not enough space for them to be quarantined at government facilities, the health ministry has allowed them to self-quarantine at their homes if they have no flu-like symptoms. 

Health workers at the border collected returnees’ personal information and addresses, information they shared with local administrators to help enforce the 14-day quarantine. 

But administrators in Hlaing Thar Yar Township told Myanmar Now that some returnees will be in close contact with their family members as they do not have private rooms at their houses. 

The returnees need to be quarantined in facilities, said Zeyar Min Oo, an administrator in Hlaing Tharyar.

Myanmar migrant workers are seen waiting to cross the border at Tak Province in Thailand, the other side of Myawaddy in Myanmar, on March 22. (Photo: Myanmar Labour Attache Office- Thailand)

As of Friday morning, Myanmar has tested 324 people for the virus, with 298 testing negative and 21 awaiting their lab results. 

The country announced its first two confirmed cases on March 23 and its third case two days later. There are now three confirmed cases in Yangon, one in Mandalay and another one in a remote village in northern Chin State’s Tedim Township. 

All are men, with one patient is in his late 60s and the rest in their 20s or 30s. 

All five cases Myanmar has so far confirmed are imported. The patients recently came back from the US, UK, or Australia. 

The government said it is ramping up its efforts to prevent local transmission, but people who have been in close contact with these five individuals have not been tested for the virus. 

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