Yangon under strain as Myanmar coronavirus cases surge

Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, has rapidly built new quarantine centres as it scrambles to contain the commercial hub’s first significant coronavirus outbreak, with overworked medical staff fearing thousands more cases to come.

As of Sunday, the country has reported at least 10,000 infections and at least 200 fatalities linked to the pandemic.

The Southeast Asian nation has one of the world’s most impoverished healthcare systems, but had until recently remained relatively unscathed by the coronavirus.

Last month there were fewer than 400 total confirmed cases nationwide and just six deaths from the disease.

But rising case numbers in Myanmar’s west quickly spread elsewhere and infection numbers have doubled every week.Yangon has seen the vast majority of patients and is now back under a strict lockdown that many fear will devastate the livelihoods of the city’s poorest inhabitants.

Around 6,000 people have been quarantined in the city, and state media reported on Saturday that seven new facilities had been built to isolate another 1,000 people.

“We estimate there could be 10,000 more suspected cases out there,” said Ye Nyi Nyi Htut, a doctor in a city clinic.

Medical staff around Yangon were “exhausted”, he added.

Residents have been told to stay at home unless working in certain key industries or shopping for food or medical supplies.

Domestic travel out of the city is forbidden and a ban on international commercial flights has been extended until the end of October.

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