Rakhine State Capital Under Curfew as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Monday, August 24, 2020

A curfew and stay-at-home order have been imposed in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe after 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were discovered within a week.

The order was issued by the Sittwe Township General Administration Department (GAD) on August 21, with the curfew imposed between 9:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. and be in place for two months.

“A series of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been found in Sittwe, so the GAD department imposed a curfew order last night,” Sittwe resident Tha Aung Khine said on Saturday. “People must stay at home. If people want to buy something in the market, only one person needs to go to the market. If people want to go to the clinic or hospital, two people are allowed to go. If people are in a hurry to travel, they need to inform their respective ward headman. Another thing is that people must wear face masks and face shields. People should not visit each other’s houses or go to other wards or villages.”

Tha Aung Khine said that many people did not appear to be wearing masks in public, but that the authorities had said they would enforce the requirement.

“If the authorities take action, I think it will be effective. We are all afraid of being infected by the virus. We need to follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Sports,” he added.

The new cases started appearing in Sittwe on August 15, and continue to rise, with three more cases on August 19, five on August 20, and 20 on August 21, and 16 more on August 22.

“All of the cases are local transmissions. The government wants to restrict travel, so they have imposed a curfew. I think the government really needs to impose this kind of order in this situation,” Zaw Zaw Tun, the secretary of the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, told NMG.

He added that more needs to be done, however.

“Imposing directives and orders is not enough. While people need to follow the orders, working class people and IDPs, for example, are daily wage workers,” Zaw Zaw Tun explained, referring to internally displaced persons. “The government needs to think about how to help these people. If government fails to take this into consideration, I think it will be difficult to control the virus.”

Locals who break the curfew and stay-at-home order could be charged under the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law.

More than 400 schools across Rakhine State have also been shut down.

Among those infected with COVID-19 in Sittwe are a doctor, nurses, a monk, a bank staff member and her relatives, and a GAD office staff.

Rakhine State chief minister and another government minister are being closely monitored because they reportedly had contact with the GAD staff who has tested positive for the virus.
As of this weekend, Burma had 435 confirmed cases of COVID-19, six deaths, and 337 recoveries.