Kachin State Won’t Build COVID-19 Lab

Myitkyina hospital, Kachin State

The Kachin State government says it can’t build a laboratory to test for the novel coronavirus because there’s a dearth of medical personnel with the expertise to operate a lab of this kind.

Khun Myat Min Aung, a lawyer, told KNG that a few months ago investors offered to pay the costs of building a lab, but the government did not accept their offer because “there are no specialists to run the laboratory in Kachin State.” If they make a lab, he says, medical specialists can be found later, but the government didn’t agree.

Zaw Zaw, director of the Kachin State government, says the “government and state health department discussed installing COVID-19 labs” but there were concerns about security. For example, he says that without the necessary expertise to manage a bio-safety level-3 lab there is always the risk of a security breach. “The virus could spread and harm us all,” he says.

Zaw Zaw says the government talked about adding a lab for testing for COVID-19 at the Myitkyina Public Hospital but decided against it because it would take six months to build.

In Mon State, a lab was opened on Thursday and two labs are being installed in Shan State.

Many citizens say they need a lab to test for the virus because Kachin State borders China, where COVID-19 was discovered late last year.

Volunteer groups say they wanted to install a lab, but were unsuccessful.

Kachin State People’s Party chair Dr. Manam Tu Ja said all states and regions that border other countries need labs to test COVID-19. Moreover, all returnees should be quarantined in government-controlled facilities before being allowed to return to their places of origin.

Many are concerned that the government has not secured all the border gates with China during the pandemic.

There has been only one confirmed COVID-19 infection (Case 144) in Kachin State. The patient has already recovered and was discharged from the hospital on June 2, after testing negative twice.

Testing for coronavirus has been sparse in Kachin State. According to the Kachin State Health Department, 1,531 people had their samples sent to the National Health Laboratory in Yangon for testing.

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