Myo Thiri Kyaw | DMG
13 November, Rathedaung

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Rathedaung Township, which hosts Arakan State’s highest IDP population, say they are worried about the risk of contracting COVID-19 as infections of the deadly virus have risen by 69 in just five days.

There were a total of 28 cases of COVID-19 in Rathedaung Township as of November 8, with 69 new cases reported since then, bringing the total to 97, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

The virus-positive people are in good health, have regular medical care and are locked down in their neighbourhoods, according to Ko Bekka, who assists IDPs in the township, but the number of infections has risen notably over the past week, leaving the IDPs with health concerns.

“Although coronavirus cases have not yet been reported in the IDP camp, I am very worried that it will become contagious. If someone at the IDP camp is infected with the virus, it can spread from one to another at the camp,” he said.

“The IDPs also may face livelihood hardships. Staff from the Department of Public Health regularly warns and educates the IDPs about the virus risks, but I am concerned for their health.”

Many people in Rathedaung Township have not followed COVID-19 preventive measures, making it difficult to control the spread of the disease, said Dr. Tin Myint Oo, an official from the Department of Medical Services.

“The increase in the number of infection cases in a week is attributed to the public’s poor compliance with the rules and regulations regarding COVID-19. Some families were found to have been infected with the coronavirus. This is [largely] a list of infected people in downtown Rathedaung. Virus infection cases can be reported in rural areas if we can boost the virus testing capacity,” he said.

IDPs are reluctant to follow restrictions meant to control the spread of coronavirus due to livelihood hardships, so the government should provide necessary assistance to them, said Ko Yan Paing Soe, an IDP from Shwe Parami IDP camp in Rathedaung Township.

“People in the IDP camp are afraid of being infected with the deadly disease and worry about food and shelter. We will be able to control the spread of the virus if IDPs no longer worry about food,” he explained.

In Rathedaung Township to date, a total of 128 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, of which 28 were discharged from the hospital, according to the township Department of Public Health.
Entry and exit to the Nyaungchaung IDP camp in Kyauktaw Township was recently restricted after a person from the camp was found to have been infected with the virus.

People who had close contact with the virus-positive patient subsequently tested negative for coronavirus, the township Department of Public Health said.

The number of IDPs in Arakan State has climbed to over 236,000 due to ongoing clashes between the military and the Arakan Army over the past two years, with IDPs facing numerous and varied hardships.

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