Concerns About Coronavirus Grow on Burma-China Border

Friday, January 31, 2020

Locals living near Kachin and Shan states’ borders with China say they are increasingly worried about the spread of coronavirus in the area, although no cases have been documented in Burma.

At the time of reporting, there were nearly 10,000 cases of the virus, nearly all in China, and more than 200 deaths resulting from it. The coronavirus has been identified in more than 15 countries, after originating in the city of Wuhan in December 2019.

“I am really afraid of it because we are living very close to China. I don’t dare to go to crowded areas,” Bawk Bawk, who lives in Muse on northern Shan State’s border with China, told NMG. “Officials are strictly checking people at the border entrance gates. People are wearing masks when they go outside, but I am still afraid.”

She added that the medical checks include heat-sensing devices to detect fevers in passersby.

Locals in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina said they are also wearing masks when they go out, and that most local shops have now sold out of them.

Khin Pyae, a seller in Myitkyina’s market, said she checks the number of cases of coronavirus daily online.

“We have seen a lot of information on the internet. We get updated information related to this virus including how many people have died and are infected. I am afraid of it. My husband told me to take care of our children and not to eat meat,” she explained.

Dr. Zet Lum Hkawng, who is working with Kachin State’s public health department, said that there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kachin State or elsewhere in the country.

“Our medical staff from Kachin State’s public health department have carried out medical checks at border gates such as Kambaiti in Waingmaw Township, Panwah in Chipwi Township and Loije in Momauk Township in Kachin State. We have monitored patients with a high fever. We are functioning in line with the directive,” Dr. Zet Lum Hkawng told NMG.

The Ministry of Health reported on January 26 that while the infection has been documented as spreading through contact with infected people, the exact method of transmission has yet to be confirmed.

The ministry recommended avoiding crowded areas, cooking meat thoroughly, and frequently washing hands with soap, as well as avoiding close contact with those who have high fevers and respiratory infections.