Paletwa Residents Fear COVID-19 Outbreak

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After four cases were confirmed, there’s concern among residents in Paletwa Township that coronavirus infections will continue to spread in southern Chin State, where there’s very little personal protective equipment (PPE) available to stop transmissions among the large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in close proximity of each other.

Zar Ni, who helps the IDPs in Paletwa Township, told Khonumthung News news of the cases came as shock to thousands still reeling after being forced from their homes from the conflict between Arakan Army and Burma Army.

“We told IDPs not to leave the camp unless there was an emergency and provided a bottle of hand gel sanitizer to each family. Now we don’t have any left.” As they aren’t earning a regular income, most don’t have the money to buy a face screen, he said. While a few might be able to purchase a single-use face mask.

Four students returning from Yangon to Paletwa tested positive on November 19.

Authorities set up a checkpoint outside of town to monitor all incoming traffic. All travelers visiting Paletwa without a health recommendation letter issued by the government are being sent directly to a quarantine facility.

The IDP population in Paletwa town is estimated at 50,000. Some 3,400 live in five camps in the nearby Sami town.

Zaw Li Aung, director of People’s Hope, told Khonumthung News although no cases have been reported in Sami because they don’t have equipment to test for the virus if there’s an outbreak it could spread undetected. There’s also very little “health awareness” about how it spreads or PPEs to prevent infections. And the town’s residents and IDPs mingle daily. “Many seniors could lose their lives,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Sports reported 82,236 transmissions in Burma on November 24, while 60,965 recovered from the disease and 1,784 died.

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