Yangon residents fly yellow flags in a call for help as Covid-19 infections surge

As the Covid-19 pandemic worsens across Yangon, residents are flying yellow flags from their apartment windows to signify that they are in need of medical supplies as whole families are isolated at home with the disease.

According to the campaign, which began on Tuesday and has been publicised online, neighbours are told to look out for the flags, and are then called upon to enlist help from those able to provide it. 

A yellow flag and a white flag flown together signifies that the occupants are not only in need of medicine, but also food.

Photos on social media showed that apartments in South Okkalapa, Tamwe, Hlaing, Mayangone, Shwepyitha, Thaketa and Hlaing Tharyar townships had already raised yellow flags to request support for the members of the household inside.

Thida, age 48, lives in South Okkalapa’s ninth ward and said that she flew the yellow flag for help on Tuesday as her 54-year-old husband and 14-year-old daughter were suffering from a fever, cough, loss of smell and hypoxia.

“We only have three people in our family. We had to ask for help as we all caught Covid-19,” she said, adding that she had heard about the yellow flag campaign on social media. 

She said she received some donations outside of her apartment after raising the flag. 

A man from Myittar Nyunt ward in Tamwe said that he flew the yellow flag out of his window after all three of his family members caught the virus, and he was worried about his elderly parents.

“My mother and I were actually getting better after 11 days. My father is still on an oxygen supply. We just can’t run out of oxygen as he’s in constant need of it. As I’m only recovering now, I can’t do much for him either. That’s why I had to ask for help,” he explained.

He said that they were in need of oxygen, food, and medicine. 

The Bahan Youth Volunteers started an effort called From the People to the People, to provide food and medicine to Covid-19 patients in Bahan and the surrounding townships. They said that three families had contacted them for help in the four days since they launched the initiative.

“Because we’re all still students, we save up as much as we can and combine our savings with some donations to run this program,” a representative of the volunteer team said. 

“We can help you for free if you need medicine and food or if you want to disinfect your houses and rooms. We’re just doing what we can to help each other out during these difficult times.”

Civil society groups have said that since earlier this month around 600 people are dying a day from Covid-19 in Yangon. The junta’s figures, which few trust, say about 160 are dying each day on average.  

Many of these people are passing away unnoticed, alone in their homes.

The healthcare system has collapsed under the junta, with hospitals closed or full to capacity, medical professionals targeted for arrest, and oxygen banned from distribution except by authorities under the military’s control.

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