Face Masks, Hand Sanitizer Run Out in Paletwa Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Locals in Paletwa, southern Chin State, say that the town has run out of COVID-19 preventative materials, even as new cases of the virus appear in the area and populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) remain particularly vulnerable.

“We cannot buy masks in Paletwa at the moment. We provided masks to IDPs in the past. Now they are gone,” Zarni, who is helping IDPs in the town, said. “They were one-use masks, so they could not wash them and reuse them. We provided a bottle of hand sanitizer to each IDP family. That’s gone, too.”

All roads to Paletwa have been blocked by the Burma Army after they engaged in clashes with the Arakan Army in southern Chin State and northern Rakhine State. Transportation of food and medical supplies to the region has become difficult and at times impossible.

Four students returning from Yangon tested positive for COVID-19 in Paletwa town on November 19. They are receiving treatment while quarantined in Paletwa’s public hospital and their health is “fine,” according to Dr. Soe Thet Win, head of the Paletwa Township Health Department, but has concerned locals about how the virus might continue to spread.

“Medical staff from the public health department have opened a clinic in the IDP camp. Our medical staff has also launched a COVID-19 awareness campaign about social distancing, wearing face masks, and handwashing often,” the doctor said.

The authorities have established a medical checkpoint at the entrance to Paletwa town. Those who do not have health recommendation letters from the relevant authorities and come from a region affected by COVID-19 are sent immediately into quarantine.

A total of 42 people are currently quarantined in the township.

At the time of reporting, there were 79,246 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Burma, 58,758 recoveries and 1,739 deaths.

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