COVID-19 cases surge with Rakhine outbreak

The recent outbreak of locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases in Rakhine State has proved to be the country’s worst since the early months of the pandemic. Authorities have reported more than 100 new cases since August 16th, increasing the total number of Myanmar’s confirmed cases by more than 25%. The total number of confirmed cases has now exceeded 500.

The outbreak seems to have originated with a CB Bank employee in Sittwe. Although she has not been abroad, she has travelled recently within Rakhine State. Local health officials believe her to have been in contact with as many as 300 people between when she contracted the coronavirus and when she tested positive. The Rakhine State Public Health Department immediately launched tracing and quarantine measures, but with the number of new cases surging in the region, it is impossible to tell how far the outbreak will spread.

Rakhine State is particularly vulnerable to a severe epidemic. First, because of the state’s porous border with Bangladesh, which has reported around 300,000 confirmed cases. Second, because ethnic conflict has hampered communication and logistics channels essential for proper testing, treatment, and containment, especially for refugee populations and communities in conflict zones.

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