With thousands returning en masse from jobs in China in recent days a Kachin civil society coalition cautioned that more needed to be done to reduce the risks of transmission of COVID-19 while the workers are transitioning home.
After more than 1,300 returning workers crossed the Loije border trading gate in Kachin State between April 16-21, according to the state government, social distancing measures weren’t always being enforced, Seng Nu Pan, from COVID-19 Prevention Network (KsC19PN), told KNG.
At the bus station in Shatapru ward, in Myitkyina, she said workers were gathered closely together and then later packed into vans sitting less than three feet apart. “We want the government to make sure there are enough vehicles for the returnees” to mitigate the dangers of infection if someone has the virus.
KsC19PN members and students from Myitkyina University helped government health workers spray disinfectant in the Shatapru bus station and check the temperature of returnees.
One-hundred volunteers from twelve organizations started KsC19PN at the beginning of April, the first network to introduce coronavirus prevention programs to internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in Myitkyina and Waingmaw townships.
At the temporary holding compounds, Seng Nu Pan said returning workers waited anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours for government staff to process their information and conduct basic medical checks. “If there was someone with an infection the virus could have easily spread. People should keep a distance of 3 feet from each other but they were sitting or laying on the ground close together,” she said, adding the workers weren’t given food while waiting for hours or mosquito nets even though they were being bitten.
After being processed, the workers were sent to their townships to begin a 14-day quarantine in a government facility.
Dr Naw Shelter, the health department director for Kachin State, said no-one has tested positive for the virus in the state but 4,688 are currently under observation. On April 23, there were 127 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Burma, while 5 people have died and 9 have recovered.
As testing facilities and health services are limited in Burma, some are concerned rates of infection are much higher than the official figure.