A new outbreak of COVID-19 is growing near Myanmar’s northwestern border with India, bringing the sharpest increase in cases since the military coup in February led to a collapse in health services and the testing program.
Official figures released late on Thursday showed 122 cases across the country for the second time in three days – a low number compared with many Asian neighbors, but the highest in nearly four months.
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Many of the cases are from Chin State, bordering India, raising concerns that the more transmissible variant first found there is now spreading in Myanmar.
“Three people died yesterday alone. Many got scared,” Lang Khan Khai from the Zomi Care and Development aid group told Reuters from the town of Tonzang, just over 20 kilometer (13 miles) from the border with India. “People rarely go out.”
Reuters was unable to reach the health ministry for comment.
Medics are concerned that few cases are being detected. The rate of confirmed infections to tests of over eight percent on Thursday was the highest since late November, when the last wave of infections peaked.
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Coronavirus testing collapsed after the coup as many health workers joined a civil disobedience movement to protest against the coup that ousted elected ruler Aung San Suu Kyi, whose government had brought two waves of infection under control.
Tests averaged just over 1,400 a day in the seven days to Thursday compared with well over 17,000 in the week before the coup.
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