State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a videoconference yesterday with senior health officials stressing the need for continued vigilance among the public regarding COVID-19.
Participants in the discussions were Deputy Director-General of Public Health Department (Disease Control) Dr Thandar Lwin, Medical Superintendent of Yangon General Hospital Dr Myint Myint Aye and Senior Consultant Physician at Hpa-an General Hospital Dr Cho Cho Sann Htoo.
The State Counsellor, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the National-Level Committee for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Prevention, Control and Treatment, greeted from the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw, saying the aim of the meeting was to alert the public to keep up the vigilance against COVID-19 as the government has issued rules and regulations since April for preventive measures; it has been found that the public has become stressed out and careless. As a results she has become a bit worried; she said people should not be careless.
It has been learnt from the news that in other countries, people thought that the worse was over but the COVID-19 second wave came in; if possible, Myanmar wants to prevent the complete occurrence of COVID-19 second wave; Myanmar does not wish to see an outbreak.
Therefore, from the viewpoint of prevention as well as treatment, the public should be informed about the things that need to be heeded and why. That was why she wanted health professionals to make people understand these things clearly. Now was not the time to become careless and carefree. If the public could follow the rules and maintain discipline for another two to three months, it would be possible to arrive at a situation when people could say they have overcome the danger. This was not to say definitely that such a situation could be reached. She said she wanted to discuss the possibility of reaching such a situation. She added, as the Department of Health had responsibility for the whole country, she wanted the discussions to cover from the viewpoint of the Ministry of Health why the people should not let their guard down and the kind of things the people should be especially careful.
Dr Thandar Lwin discussed the preparatory measures of Ministry of Health and Sports since 4 January even in the early outbreak of endemic in China, with giving information about the disease on website and Facebook page of the ministry.
Moreover, the MoHS worked together with relevant ministries, the Union Government and region/state government in disease control measures, renovated ICUs at the hospitals, conducted awareness campaigns; issued orders to prohibit local and foreign travellers; identified suspected patients for medical treatments; upgraded laboratories; established quarantine centres in coordination with the civil society organizations; found the first confirmed case in Myanmar on 23 March and the total cases in the country has reached 299 until now.
She also discussed to keep on adhering to rules and regulations for preventing transmission of the disease.
Restrictions were re-imposed in South Korea, China, Australia and India after more COVID-19 cases were found again; plans for reopening of schools were postponed; although restrictions were eased step by step in Thailand, Viet Nam and Malaysia, arrivals of foreign tourists are still prohibited; Singapore and New Zealand announced significant decline of the pandemic case, but the disease has been found again.
Dr Myint Myint Aye explained treatments of COVID-19 disease at Yangon General Hospital, with setting up designated areas for the suspected patients and other facilities, proper use of PPE sets and conducting infection control practice; assigning its doctors, nurses, skilled staff and medical officers to the Waibargi Specialist Hospital, South Okkalapa Women and Children Hospital and Phaunggyi Hospital.
The Yangon General Hospital also used three ambulance cars to transfer patients to private hospitals, people’s hospitals and positive patients at quarantine centres, suspected patients and closed contact persons to Waibargi Specialist Hospital and South Okkalapa Hospital.
She advised people to continue adhering to following rules and regulations of MoHS to prevent more COVID-19 cases.
Dr Cho Cho Sann Htoo also talked about the considerable threat of COVID-19 in Kayin State as it is bordering with Thailand; Hpa-an hospital was prepared for the designated hospital although it is just 200-bedded hospital with the participation of medical specialists and private donors.
The hospital gave medical treatments to a total of 138 suspected patients up to 25 June, motivation and counselling were given to the patients in isolation; six hemodialysis machines have been installed and one was set to use for quarantine patients.
She finally advised people to maintain awareness on the COVID-19 and follow the guidelines.
Regarding the discussions, the State Counsellor remarked that success was achieved in preventive measures because early plans were adopted; it could be said that Myanmar was one of the countries which adopted rules and regulations at an early stage; most countries took the COVID-19 rather lightly; it has been noticed that most countries took it lightly and thought that they could handle the COVID-19 disease and did not take it seriously. In Myanmar, necessary rules and regulations were issued beginning from 4th January and preventive measures were taken thus providing much-needed support to contain the disease. Roughly speaking there was no spreading of the disease inside the country but most of the time the disease was carried by those who came back from foreign countries. This was why it was deemed necessary to keep reminding frequently. It has been said that the way COVID-19 disease spread was different from country to country. It changed from one place to the other. In Myanmar, it has been said that most of the infection cases did not show any symptoms. It was very dangerous. If the symptoms were visible the disease could be avoided. If the COVID-19 disease did not show visible symptoms, it could not be avoided. That was why it was very important to live with vigilance. It the disease lingered on this was not a good thing. The State has to struggle to provide treatment; the patient also has to struggle. In the same way, the patient’s family and friends also have to struggle. The main thing is to have vigilance. To protect oneself with vigilance is more effective than receiving treatment.
The people in Yangon are going out of their homes in large numbers. That was why she wanted the doctor who lived in Yangon to stop and ponder about the reason why a great number of people wanted to go out of their homes. She did not wish to say anything about people who have to work; especially people who were earning daily wages; they have to go out to work as long as there were job opportunities and struggle for their families. However, she wanted to know why a lot of people were going about in groups on the Inya lake bund.
The exit route lies within the mind. Everyone should take note of this. There is a saying, no matter where you might wander loneliness is most felt within a crowd. No one cares about you. Psychologists have observed that the loneliness you feel within a crowd is the worst kind of feeling. The exit route is within one’s mind. That was why she wanted to urge the people to have the patience for two to three months; after two to three months the total would become five to six months, this was not such a long time. In the lifetime of a person, one cannot say that five or six months is a long time. The reason she had to keep reminding frequently was that Myanmar was not a rich country and therefore had to exist based on spiritual strength. Existing based on spiritual energy means to exist based on discipline. That is why duty needs to be respected and discipline should be maintained. Each person needs to know how to live happily with contentment. Only you can create your own happiness. No one could do that for you. She said she wanted all those involved in healthcare services to remind healthcare workers. At this time all Myanmar citizens returning from foreign countries should be welcomed. This was just like returning to your parents’ home in times of hardships and danger. People can come back to one’s own country. She said we should welcome those who returned to Myanmar with the feeling that if they returned to the home country everyone would join in to solve the problem. This kind of spirit should be encouraged. Myanmar would be able to stand firmly as a union only if this kind of spirit is kept alive.
The main reason for having this meeting was because the Ministry of Health and Sports has become concerned. The people have become careless; they think they could not get infected and that the danger has passed. They need to understand that the danger is not yet over. In Yangon as a result of people not observing the rules and regulations for COVID, incidents of other diseases and accidents have increased. For example, because of higher numbers of people travelling, accidents have increased.
As a result, there were more patients. Hospitals have to treat these patients and when some of them were infected with COVID disease, treatment had to be given to these patients also. Therefore the workload became heavier and this resulted in the Union Government having to confront more problems. Therefore “mindfulness”, this has to be repeated again and again. Experts have said that for something to be implanted in the brain, it has to be repeated again and again.
Among the things said by the Ministry of Health and Sports, it was mentioned that because early preventive measures were taken it has been possible to contain the pandemic. However, it would be such a loss if people became careless and it would become necessary to confront danger at this time. What had been accomplished before would become meaningless. That would be such a loss for the human resources of the country. It would be a loss for the people. The people are the most valuable human resources. If we lose our people because of the disease, it would be a huge loss for the country. That is why there should be vigilance at all times.
In the discussions, it was mentioned that in the later stages, people were not afraid anymore. It was not a good thing to be afraid all the time. She said she did not mean to say that people should be afraid. People should be vigilant. To be vigilant and to be afraid are not the same. Wearing a mask when you go out is being vigilant. To wash your hand carefully and frequently; to wash your hand when you come home; taking off the mask and changing your clothes; these things are not too difficult to do. By taking these steps you can protect yourself from having to meet with more critical situations. This is the reason why people are being reminded all the time.
In other countries, having to confront an outbreak for the second time is more dangerous. According to the news reports, in some states in America where the restrictions were lifted, they had to impose the restrictions again. Because the rate of people infected by the COVID disease increased, restaurants and other places which were permitted to open had to be closed again. She said restrictions were being lifted slowly because she did not wish the same thing to happen in Myanmar. They were moving step by step. However, there were some who have become impatient. It is a very difficult thing to have to retreat after moving fast. Having to retreat is because of having a problem. The best thing is to make sure that you don’t have to retreat. That was why it was important to move slowly. In the discussions presented by the doctor from Hpa-an, it was very encouraging to hear that everyone joined in to help. She said she wanted to thank the youths of Kayin State. If the youths can practice and nurture “metta”(loving kindness) and “cetena” (good intentions) starting from now it would be very good for the future of the country. The most important things are “metta” and “cetena”. We should encourage the willingness to work for others with social welfare spirit. One way of giving encouragement is to give recognition.
The second wave of COVID-19 is more severe in foreign countries; news reports said that some states in the US had to re-impose lockdown after it was removed; the rapid increasing number of COVID patients has closed restaurants and other sites again; Myanmar is gradually easing restrictions to avoid such situations, while moving ahead step by step; however, some people have lost their patience; it is more difficult to step backwards in solving problems; backtracking is problem that can turn around a situation; and that slow and steady pace is more useful; prevention is the best way to solve a problem; it is very satisfied to hear cooperation of locals in Hpa-an and very appreciated to the youth in Kayin State; developing loving kindness among the youth is good for the future of the country; community spirit must be supported and it is a form of recognition; good deeds must be appreciated; a group that is trying for promoting loving kindness among human beings have said it; one pointing figure of someone to another means three fingers are pointing to oneself; optimistic and philanthropic attitude of the youths is a good expectation for the country.
It was said in the discussions that some returnee patients have no mobile phones; some persons have old phones which are not used anymore, but in good conditions for use; such extra phones will be useful for the patients to have confidence in relieving their diseases; it is required to prevent, control and treat COVID and to maintain awareness and vigilance; it is grateful to officials of Ministry of Health and Sports and common for their works in fighting against COVID-19; it can take advantage from struggles for the country, not only during the pandemic but also for the future of the country; experiences could turn into capacity; and thanks to all the people taking part in measures against COVID -19; may all being healthy and wealthy.