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Health workers start anti-coup protests in coronavirus-hit Myanmar

Medical workers throughout Myanmar started a civil disobedience protest in opposition to Monday’s coup, carrying pink ribbons and declaring they will not work for the brand new army authorities.

The military takeover that ousted the civilian authorities of Aung San Suu Kyi over allegations of fraud in November’s elections couldn’t have come at a worse time for a rustic battling a gradual rise in COVID-19 circumstances with a dangerously insufficient well being system.

“We want to show the world we are totally against military dictatorship and we want our elected government and leader back,” mentioned Dr. Zun Ei Phyu, who lives in Yangon, the largest metropolis and business capital. “We want to show them we will follow only our elected government. Not the military.”

Health workers in authorities hospitals and services issued a press release Wednesday opposing the coup. Photos had been shared on social media displaying workers with pink ribbons pinned to their garments or holding printed pictures of pink ribbons. Others used a three-finger salute that has grow to be an emblem of pro-democracy protests in neighboring Thailand, the place a former common has led the federal government since a 2014 coup.

Some medical workers went on strike whereas others who continued work in government-run clinics made public their opposition to the brand new army rulers.

Some of these on strike have begun to volunteer at charity well being clinics, a lot of which had been shut down as a precaution in opposition to a surge in COVID-19 circumstances. The clinics which have remained reopen are extending their working hours so individuals can nonetheless obtain care in the course of the protest, Zun Ei Phyu mentioned.

“We give free treatment and medicine to anyone who is in need,” she said, adding the clinics often operate with donations from charities and local communities.

Myanmar’s early response to the pandemic mirrored that of many countries: borders were nearly completely closed, lengthy quarantines were imposed on travelers, and daily life slowed with stay-at-home orders.

It seemed to work until early September, when cases exploded from less than 1,000 to some 14,300 a month later. Now with more than 140,600 confirmed cases and 3,100 deaths, Myanmar’s fragile health system faces the perfect storm of the pandemic and the coup.

“You could expect the military to take full advantage of COVID-19 as a political opportunity, not as a health care responsibility to the people of Myanmar,” mentioned Ronan Lee, a visiting scholar at Queen Mary University of London’s International State Crime Initiative.

History reveals these issues should not with out benefit.

In 2000, a long time after the previous army junta took management, the World Health Organization ranked Myanmar’s well being system as one of many worst. According to the World Bank, Myanmar’s well being expenditure was round 1.87% of GDP in 2010, the year earlier than democratic reforms started.

In March 2020, Myanmar reported simply 0.71 intensive care unit beds and 0.46 ventilators per 100,000 inhabitants, which was inadequate to take care of even a reasonable outbreak, based on knowledge from the World Bank and WHO.

Donations of medical tools have since arrived and the federal government has elevated mattress capability with new quarantine facilities, clinics and hospitals. But specialists cite an absence of medical workers as a unbroken drawback.

Myanmar’s small well being care pressure had simply 6.7 physicians per 10,000 individuals in 2018, considerably decrease than the worldwide common of 15.6 in 2017.

The coup comes simply days after Myanmar launched its vaccination marketing campaign with some 1.5 million doses of a two-shot vaccine donated from India. Last week, Suu Kyi noticed vaccinations at a hospital in the capital, Naypyitaw, and instructed reporters that the method should proceed fastidiously as a result of the federal government doesn’t have all of the provides it wants.

The army has its personal medical corps and medical services throughout the nation. But Sharon Bell, a researcher who beforehand studied the well being system in Myanmar, mentioned she would not anticipate the army may have the power to manage outbreaks or conduct ample vaccination applications.

The army launched a press release saying “prevention of the current outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will be efficiently carried out with momentum.”

According to Lee, when the army talks about getting the virus below management, it means “locking down the community and preventing opportunities for public expressions of opposition to their rule.”

“I expect they’ll use the pandemic as a shield to defend them from scrutiny,” he mentioned.

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