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Myanmar and the Wuhan Virus- An Update

Paper No. 6572                          Dated  4 - May- 2020
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
As on 2nd May, the total number of confirmed cases comes to  151 of whom 37 have been cured.  There have been only six deaths so far.
Compared to other countries, the incidence of Wuhan Virus has been minimal and is manageable.  But this could change once the Migrants from other countries return to the Country.  State Councillor Suu Kyi had mentioned a figure of 100000 migrants from Thailand and Malaysia who would wish to return to Myanmar.   On 2nd May 195 Myanmar citizens returned from Japan and another 140 from South Korea. Earlier 3000 migrants crossed over through the land border from China.
More could be expected in the next few days. It looks that the Government has factored this into account in managing the spread of the virus.  Incidentally there was an odd case of a confirmed case from Musse in the Northern Shan State Border.
The National Central Committee on Prevention, Control, and Treatment for the Virus spread is seen to be active.  It had extended the rules and directives now in force until 15th May.  It has also been successful in tracing a majority of transmission chains and has maintained that the Virus spread is manageable.
Significantly, the Government has coordinated with other insurgent outfits like the MDAA, Kachin and the UWSA to contain the Virus Spread but not with the Arakan Army! 
Suu Kyi had a call from the Indian Prime Minister and discussed the “Covid-19"- (Wuhan Virus) Scenario.  She was assured of India’s readiness to provide all possible support to Myanmar for mitigating  the health and economic impact of the Wuhan Virus and also support to the Myanmar citizens remaining in India.
Though the incidence of the Virus infection is not so serious yet, Suu Kyi cautioned the citizens not to be over confident.  She said “Make no mistake - Covid 19 has cast its long shadow across our country, our economy and people”
Suu Kyi also made an innovative move for People’s participation.  The Government has formed a new “National Volunteer Steering Unit” chaired by Suu Kyi herself.  This unit has been made responsible to systematically organize volunteers in response to the pandemic.  These Volunteers would offer their labour, time, professional skills and advice as response to the Virus. 
Thankfully, this steering unit does not have Army Representatives and consists mostly civilians, Ministers of Social Welfare, Relief, Resettlement, Regional and State Chief minisers, other Health officials and Sports Representatives.
The Government is said to have prepared a detailed Economic Relief Plan in post Covid period.  This covers the monetary policy. Tax and Trade in financial Sector, foreign investments, Health, Public Finance and House hold Sector.  There is going to be a reallocation of 10 percent of budget for Health and this may continue in future also.  There is an expectation that some “sweeping reforms” will be introduced.
The Election Commission has already declared that the national elections will be held as scheduled  by November this year.  This has cleared doubts expressed in some quarters that the elections may be postponed.  
It is interesting to see China going all out to support Myanmar in its fight against the spread of the Virus though the situation was not serious enough for China’s response in such a massive scale.
Firstly, in early April, China sent a special team of Medics from Yunnan with a consignment of over 4 million Yuan of Laboratory and medical equipment and supplies.  The team was received by none other than the Minister for Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe.  The team spent 14 days in the country.
China sent another major shipment soon after with PPE kits, millions of surgical masks as also N 95 masks.  Curiously, China made a specific request  that the equipment should be handed over to Yangon and Mandalay regions.  It is believed by the Myanmar media that these two regions were specifically chosen by China in view of its  strategic interest in these regions!
The Chinese Ambassador was seen to be very active during the entire period.  Observers believe that it is China’s attempt to regain “lost trust” and to boost its image with the people of Myanmar.   Despite local opposition they have certainly not given up their desire to resume the now halted Myiitsone dam which was  meant for the benefit of the Chinese province of Yunnan and not to the Kachin People!