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In Burma, many Covid-19 patients refuse to go to hospitals abandoned by their guardians after the military coup and choose to stay at home, even if it means death there. Stunned volunteers organize to collect the bodies.
“We take care of 30-40 bodies a day. Sometimes we find two in the same house, ”Tan Than Soo, who leads the Shin Than Khwint EMS volunteer group in Yangon, tells AFP.
Their ambulance, siren blaring, rushes through the streets of the economic capital after another pandemic victim recovered, wrapped in cellophane and to whom we hastily performed Buddhist funeral rites.
Arrival at the Kiy Su crematorium, the ballet of cars, signed by some “corpse transporters”, does not stop.
Burma is facing an outbreak with more than 5,000 cases reported daily in recent days, up from less than 50 in early May. In total, 5,000 people died, which is certainly largely underestimated.
Hospital beds, oxygen tanks, tests, vaccines: In a country in chaos following the February 1 coup that toppled Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, nothing is available in sufficient quantities.
Residents are afraid to go to hospitals controlled by the military.
Hundreds of doctors and nurses are on strike in protest against the forced exit of the generals and their bloody repression (more than 900 civilians were killed). Many of them, with arrest warrants and considered “enemies of the state,” have fled and fled while senior health officials are behind bars, including the one in charge of the country’s vaccination program.
– “What cemetery?” –
Before the putsch, our mission was to “get COVID-19 patients to hospitals,” says Sunn Oo, a 13-hour bridge volunteer driver. “Now everything is different. When they call us, we ask + what cemetery +? “
The situation is not doomed to improve: the country is at risk of becoming a “state of proliferation” of the virus, warns Tom Andrews, UN Human Rights Rapporteur in Burma.
He is particularly concerned about the fate of the 5,300 prisoners held by the junta after the coup d’état, believing that “their detention could turn into a death sentence” given the outbreak of the epidemic.
In a country of 54 million people, fewer than 2 million people have been vaccinated.
Burma is expected to receive six million doses from China by next month, but many observers believe it will be too late and authorities are rushing in oxygen from Thailand and China, state media reported.
Tang Than Soe’s team was not spared by the epidemic. Two volunteers contracted the virus, one of whom died.
“Sometimes I don’t pick up the phone anymore,” Tang Soe sighs. “It’s not because I don’t want to do my duty (…), but too much suffering.”
© 2021 AFP