Rakhine is in a State of Emergency

BY: Nay Lin Tun —

COVID-19 travel restrictions will not keep people from fleeing when there are mortar shells falling around them, writes a medical doctor on the COVID-19 frontline in Sittwe.

This past week has been tragic for Sittwe, the Rakhine State capital. One person tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, followed by three on Wednesday and 20 on Friday. There are now 72 new confirmed cases in Sittwe, three in Mrauk-U and two in Thandwe Township, in the state’s south. None of these have involved a history of foreign travel or known contact with COVID-19 patients, indicating community spread.

The authorities have responded decisively. The entire town has been issued a stay-at-home order, dine-in eating has been prohibited at restaurants and food markets are operating on limited hours. The town’s main market was closed on August 21. Additionally, anybody leaving Sittwe must undergo a 14-day quarantine, while primary contacts of current cases are being tested and made to quarantine – either at a hotel or a designated quarantine facility – and secondary contacts are being told to home quarantine. There is a curfew from 9pm until 4am and several streets are locked down. Local authorities are issuing K1,000 fines for anyone caught not wearing a mask here. NGO staff are being prevented from having direct contact with displaced communities.